Top Clerics Back Khamenei in Rejecting Missile Talks with West

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Oct 27, 2017
Top Clerics Back Khamenei in Rejecting Missile Talks with West

Senior Iranian clerics on Friday backed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s earlier remarks that Iran’s defense capabilities, including its controversial missile program, are non-negotiable. During their Friday prayer sermons, the clerics emphasized that the Islamic Republic will defy international pressure and continue to further enhance its military assets. They also encouraged worshippers to participate in the upcoming National Day against Global Arrogance to condemn the Trump administration’s anti-Iran policies. The Islamic Republic organizes massive rallies every November 4 to commemorate the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian clerics also urged the Rouhani government not to trust the United States and ruled out further negotiations with the West regarding other matters of contention. Some clerics also spoke against the governments of neighboring countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel.

Comment: On Wednesday, Khamenei declared that Iran will not negotiate with Western powers on the country’s defense capabilities, including the missile program. “As I have declared in the past and am repeating it, the country’s defensive power and assets are not open for negotiation and bargaining,” he stressed. “And we will forcefully continue the path to power,” he told a gathering of graduates from Iranian Army universities.  Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, claimed that the United States and its allies are troubled by Iran’s growing power in the region because they see it as “Islam’s strategic depth” – adding that the latest U.S. pressure to undermine Iran’s missile program is part of that broad effort. “The way to confront these hostilities is to go against their will and stand by elements of national power,” he added.

Tension between Washington and Tehran has escalated as the Trump administration recently decertified the Iran nuclear deal and adopted a more aggressive policy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. Iran’s launch of several ballistic missiles this year has been one reason Washington has accused Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the nuclear agreement. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Despite international pressure, there appears to be a consensus among political and military leaders in Tehran to continue and further advance Iran’s missile technology at any cost.

Last week, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) announced that Iran will defy U.S. pressure and further enhance the country’s missile program. “The Islamic Republic’s missile power expanded during absolute sanctions regime and will continue and accelerate without a pause,” it said in a statement, adding that the I.R.G.C. will continue to confront the United States and Israel.

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.