Iran Boasts of 'New Plans' To Increase Ballistic Missile Development

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Iran intends to continue its development of ballistic missiles and other advanced weaponry regardless of any international sanctions imposed by the West, a top Iranian defense official said Saturday.

Tehran’s “new plans” include a wide range of next-generation air and naval assets, deputy defense minister for international affairs Mohammad Ahadi was quoted as saying by Iranian state news agency IRNA.

“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of new generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” Ahadi said, according to Reuters.

Iran’s ballistic missile program was a key point of contention leading to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The Trump administration had criticized the deal for not addressing Tehran’s missile development or its support for proxy forces throughout the Middle East.

Iran says its missile program is defensive in nature and not subject to negotiations with Washington or other Western powers. It has also said that continued ballistic missile tests don’t violate the letter of the nuclear deal, referring to a U.N. resolution that “calls on” Tehran to stop missile testing but does not actually require it.

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Ahadi’s remarks come as relations between Washington and Tehran continue to worsen over the Trump administration’s decision to re-impose sanctions that had been lifted in the nuclear deal. The White House says the penalties are needed to force a recalcitrant regime to the negotiating table, while Tehran has accused Washington of pursuing “economic strangulation” against the Iranian people.

Another round of snapback sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and central bank is set to take effect in November, which is likely to further cripple the country’s sputtering economy. Tehran says the European Union must maintain its trading and financial ties to Iran in order to preserve the nuclear deal, but several key European firms have already begun to wind down their operations in Iran under threat of secondary U.S. sanctions.

Iran still has the capacity to develop advanced military technology despite the economic squeeze from U.S. sanctions, according to Ahadi.

“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defense industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.

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