x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 December 2017

Iran defies US with increased budget for missile programme

A week after new US sanctions, parliament also approves greater spending on regional military operations

 

Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani says the increased defence budget passed on August 13, 2017 sends a message to Washington after it imposed new sanctions on Tehran. Osman Orsal / Reuters / January 22, 2015
Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani says the increased defence budget passed on August 13, 2017 sends a message to Washington after it imposed new sanctions on Tehran. Osman Orsal / Reuters / January 22, 2015

Iran’s parliament on Sunday approved an increased budget for the country’s ballistic missile programme and the regional operations of its Revolutionary Guard, in defiance of recent US sanctions over Tehran’s testing of new missile technology.

The US$520 million (Dh1.91bn) budget for the defence ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ powerful Quds Force, which carries out operations to support the regime in Syria and militias in Iraq and elsewhere, was backed by 240 of the 247 members present in parliament, Iranian media reported.

"The Americans should know that this was our first action to confront terrorist and adventurist actions by the United States in the region," parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said after the vote.

The budget bill allocates $260m for the continuing development of the missile programme and $260 million for the Quds Force, Irna news agency reported.

The additional US sanctions put in place last month directly target the missile programme and the IRGC.

Washington and European countries that negotiated the nuclear deal have said Iran's missile tests violate the spirit of the 2015 accord, which calls upon Tehran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons", but not its letter.

Iranian officials claim its missiles are purely defensive and that the US sanctions violate the deal.

US president Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to withdraw from the nuclear deal, but so far he has reluctantly certified Tehran’s compliance every 90 days, as required by US law. His national security adviser and secretaries of state and defence have urged him not to scrap the accord as long as Iran abides by it, as international sanctions would not be reinstated and its nuclear programme could again ramp up enrichment.

Nonetheless, the White House has reportedly continued to look — so far unsuccessfully — for ways to declare Iran non-compliant.

In July Iran tested a satellite launch vehicle that the Pentagon said could be used to create a long-range ballistic missile. The test drew a rare joint condemnation from Washington, the UK, France and Germany, although the European signatories to the deal are unlikely to support any US attempt to scrap it.

In comments posted on his website, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani himself warned on Sunday that "if the US intends to stand against the deal, the entire world will stand before the US".

Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said the budget law passed on Sunday had the support of Mr Rouhani’s government. The bill is “very smart particularly because it doesn't violate the nuclear deal and doesn't allow the other side to make excuses", he said. “Iran boasts potential and actual options to confront hostile US actions".

In order to become law, the bill must pass a second vote and receive approval from Iran's religious authorities.

The bill also requires Iran’s foreign ministry to create its own sanctions list of US entities and “recognises the entire American military and intelligence forces as terrorist groups”.

The government will have three months to provide legislators with the names of people to put on a sanctions list, which will be updated every six months.

The bill also reportedly requires the economic ministry to prioritise trade with countries and private companies that ignore US sanctions on Iran.

A Russian foreign affairs official, Konstantin Kosachev, said that the new Iranian legislation was “quite logical”, Moscow’s Tass news agency reported.

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