Hassan Firouzabadi, up until recently the Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces, has revealed the country’s supreme leader is intensely involved in managing Iran’s missile industry. According to Firouzabadi, “the firing of a missile in Iran is not possible without the direct approval of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.” He added that Khamenei not only has tight oversight over budgeting and production of Iran’s missile arsenal, but also “decides even the timing of the launch of a missile during military drills.” Firouzabadi also noted that Iran’s provocatively timed testing of a long-range ballistic missile in October 2015 had been meticulously prepared by Khamenei.
The October 2015 long-range ballistic missile test by Iran came only three months after Tehran had signed the nuclear agreement with world powers. Many in the US and elsewhere regarded the testing as a clear violation of the nuclear deal and pushed for punishment of Iran for it. However, despite an initial probe, the matter was not pursued at the UN. Back then many observers pointed to the hardline generals in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as responsible for the provocation. Firouzabadi’s comments do not reveal how the IRGC generals shape Khamenei’s calculations. But Khamenei’s micro-management of Iran’s missile arsenal shows that there is no daylight between him and the IRGC on the question of pushing Iran toward further militarization.