Iran will not negotiate with America and European countries over its ballistic missile program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a press conference in Tehran today. “We will not negotiate about our defense and missiles,” he emphasized, adding that Tehran will continue to boost its defense power by producing more planes, missiles and submarines. Rouhani also ruled out renegotiation of the 2015 nuclear agreement with the West. “Nothing will be added or subtracted from the JCPOA. No single line will be added or removed from it,” he said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action also known as the Iran nuclear deal. “We do not consider other issues relevant to the JCPOA. The JCPOA is an international agreement that is also endorsed by the [UN] Security Council. It is not only a commitment by America’s Democratic Party… As long as our interests are served, we will remain in the JCPOA. America’s decision to remain or leave in the JCPOA will not affect our position,” he added.
Comment: The nuclear accord Tehran signed with world powers in July 2015 did not directly address Iran’s ballistic missile program, but the subsequent UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the agreement, calls upon Iran to abstain from any activity related to ballistic missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead.
In a defiance of the resolution and Western pressure, however, Iran has conducted nearly two-dozen ballistic missile tests over the past two years. Tehran has also increased the range and precision capability of its missiles, and has reportedly transferred its missile technology to its regional proxies, including to Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni groups.
Iran denies its missile activity violates the resolution, but US officials state that some of missiles Iran has tested recently have been inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons are in defiance of international demands and the UN resolution.
President Trump has made it clear that addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program is a prerequisite to keeping the nuclear accord. His administration has begun talks with European powers to seek ways of pressuring Tehran to curb its missile activity or face more punitive measures. Although European countries oppose any US measures that would undermine the nuclear deal, they share Washington’s concern about the Iranian missile threat and want to address it separate from the nuclear case. When French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visits Tehran in March, talks over Iran’s missile program and malign activities in the region will top his agenda.