Missile program to accelerate: Tehran

(MENAFN- Arab Times) ANKARA, Oct 19, (Agencies): Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Thursday its ballistic missile programme would accelerate despite US and European Union pressure to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. In a significant US policy shift on Oct 13, President Donald Trump disavowed Iran's compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and launched a more aggressive approach to the Islamic Republic over its missile development activity.

'Iran's ballistic missile programme will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump's hostile approach towards this revolutionary organisation (the Guards),' the IRGC said in a statement published by Tasnim.

The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions aimed at impairing Iran's missile programme. It has called on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans. Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism. 'Trump's anxiety and trembling voice in his speech was a sign of beginning of the era of failure for America's hegemony,' Tasnim quoted IRGC chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying. 'Boosting Iran's defence power remains our top priority.' Iran has one of the most advanced ballistic missile programmes in the Middle East, viewing it as an essential precautionary defence against the United States and other adversaries, primarily Gulf Arab states and Israel.

'Imposing cruel sanctions against the Guards and hostile approach of the rogue and brute (US) president shows the failure of America and the Zionist regime's (Israel) wicked policies in the region,' the Guards statement said. Signalling no respite in tension in the Middle East, where Shi'ite Muslim Iran has waged a long proxy war with USallied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the Guards also vowed to continue confronting the United States and Israel. 'More decisive and stronger than ever, the Guards will continue to defend Islamic Iran and its interests,' the statement said, alluding to the Quds force, the Guards' overseas arm that operates in Iraq, Syria and Yemen among other places. Trump's hardened Iran stance has united officials behind the IRGC.

'Today, Iranians, boys, girls, men, women, are all IRGC. Standing firm with those who defend us and the region against aggression and terror,' US-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his twitter account after Trump's speech. A United States Congress decision on the Iran nuclear deal could clarify Washington's stance on the international accord and lead to a positive outcome for Total and its planned $5 billion Iranian gas project, its CEO said on Wednesday. Congress has two months to decide whether to reinstate sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump last week refused to formally certify that Tehran was complying with the nuclear agreement hailed by his predecessor Barack Obama as key to stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons. The deal was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union.

Total was the first Western oil major to sign a deal with Iran to develop phase 11 of Iran's South Pars, the world's largest gas field. A decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran could jeopardise the project. Pouyanne has said Total would withdraw from Iran if obliged by law. 'There is an ongoing process in the United States. Congress has to make a decision. What is good with this process is that there is going to be a clarification of the position of the United States,' Pouyanne told journalists on the sidelines of an oil conference in Paris.


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