The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps has warned Europe that if it acts against Tehran’s interests, the I.R.G.C. will increase the range of the country’s missiles beyond the current limit of 2,000 kilometers. “If we have kept the range of our missiles up to 2,000 kilometers and have not increased it, it is not because of technological limitations. This is because we have a strategic doctrine for the range of our missiles,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said in a television interview. “Therefore, the Europeans should know that if they threaten us, we will increase the range of our missiles,” he added, according to I.R.G.C.-affiliated Tasnim News Agency. The I.R.G.C. deputy head ruled out any negotiations with Western powers over Iran’s missile program as it would be a “surrender” to the “enemy.” Salami further stressed that the missile program guarantees Iran’s “security, independence and diplomatic power.”
In late October, I.R.G.C. Chief Commander Major General Ali Jafari said Iran does not need to increase the range of its ballistic missiles beyond 2,000 kilometers at present because American military bases and interests lie within this radius. "Based on the policies specified by the Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei), the range of our missiles is limited to 2,000km, but we have the capability to increase the range; yet at present it is sufficient because the Americans are in a 2,000km radius from our country and their attacks will be responded," Jafari added. Jafari had previously warned that if Washington designated the I.R.G.C. as a terrorist organization, the U.S. military “should relocate its bases in the region out of the 2,000-kilometer reach of Iranian missiles.”
Comment: Salami’s remarks were a reaction to French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s latest statements demanding that Iran clarify its “uncontrolled” ballistic missile strategy. During a press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel Jubeir earlier this month, the top French diplomat added that “Iran’s role and the different areas where this country operates worries us.” He continued: “I am thinking in particular of Iran’s interventions in regional crises, this hegemonic temptation and I’m thinking of its ballistic program.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has also said that the Iran nuclear deal can be “supplemented” with new provisions that would address Tehran’s missile program and regional actions.
In a telephone conversation last week, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani urged his French counterpart not to support Washington’s policies vis-à-vis Tehran, particularly regarding Iran’s missile program and regional policies and actions. “From Iran’s perspective, one the one hand, a complete and thorough implementation of JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; the 2015 nuclear agreement], is an important test for many other significant collaborations at the international level; and on the other, adding to or removing any parts of JCPOA will result in the complete collapse of this agreement,” Rouhani warned Macron, according to the Iranian media. The Iranian president also tried to assure his French counterpart that Iran’s military involvement in neighboring conflicts is for counterterrorism rather than expansionism purposes. He also defended Hezbollah, telling Macron that “Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese nation and enjoys extraordinary popularity in the country.”
In recent months, the Rouhani government has launched a diplomatic offensive to drive a wedge between European powers and the United States. Tehran believes that having the backing of European powers is essential to “isolate” Washington in the latest nuclear standoff and minimize the impact of new U.S. sanctions. The three European signatories of the nuclear accord – France, Germany and Britain – have all rejected the Trump administration’s suggestion to cancel the nuclear deal. But Macron’s proposal for separate negotiations to deal with Iran’s missile program and regional activities has been a matter of concern in Tehran. Hardliners, in particular, point to Macron’s statements to argue that Iran should not negotiate any further with an “unreliable” West. They say European countries will ultimately side with Washington not Tehran.
While the nuclear agreement does not address Iran’s missile program, the subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iranian leaders argue that the country’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads, but U.S. officials say some of the missiles Iran has tested after the 2015 nuclear deal have been "inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons" and are "in defiance of" the U.N. resolution.