Iran will keep producing missiles for as long as the United States supports Israel, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps vowed Friday, as a war of words between Washington and Tehran continued in the aftermath of Iranian rocket tests last week.
The US had warned that the tests violated the terms of previously signed agreements as well as those of a July 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers, and could result in fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Washington has since said that plans for new sanctions were on hold.
“Today the Americans speak about Iran’s missile development program and they want to impose new sanctions on Iran,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted General Hossein Salami as saying in a speech during Friday prayers in Tehran.
“We tell the Americans that we will further expedite enhancement of our missile capabilities as long as they massacre the Palestinian children, as long as they bury Yemen’s oppressed children in their houses, as long as they displace the Muslim nation of Syria, as long as they attack the houses of the Pakistanis, as long as they occupy the Islamic lands and as long as they support the Zionist regime to bomb Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.”
Salami also said that Iran had so many missiles that it had nowhere to store them, AFP reported.
“We lack enough space in our stockpiles to house our missiles,” he said. “Hundreds of long tunnels are full of missiles ready to fly to protect your integrity, independence and freedom,” he told worshipers in Tehran, promising to never “stop developing our defense deterrent.”
Iranian state television aired in October unprecedented footage of such an underground missile base.
Tehran on Thursday accused the United States of lying about it test-firing missiles near a US warship, as anger rose at the specter of new sanctions. The US has said that it has shelved plans for fresh sanctions.
The Revolutionary Guards denied that its naval forces had been involved in the December 26 incident, in which the US said missiles came close to the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered his defense minister to speed up the production of missiles, following the US warning of new sanctions — the first since the landmark nuclear deal was signed in July.
Rouhani said Iran would not accept any curbs on its missile program.
A US military official said an Iranian vessel had test-fired several ballistic missiles near three Western warships, including the aircraft carrier. A French frigate and the USS Bulkeley destroyer were also in the area.
Though the missiles were not fired toward any warship, their proximity to them and several commercial ships — reportedly around 1,500 yards (meters) — was “highly provocative,” said the US official, who was not authorized to be named.
Revolutionary Guards spokesman General Ramezan Sharif, quoted on the Guards’ website, accused the US of fabricating the incident — which reportedly occurred after Iranian naval forces announced via radio that the test-firing was to begin.
“Publishing such lies in the current situation is more a psychological operation,” Sharif said.
“The security and peace of the Gulf is of serious strategic importance to Iran. The Guards conduct exercises to increase our required preparedness at due times, based on our own schedule.”
Ballistic missile tests by Iran are prohibited under Security Council resolution 1929, which was passed five years ago and remains valid until July’s nuclear deal goes into effect. At that point, in line with another Security Council resolution, passed immediately after the summer’s nuclear deal, Iran will be “called upon” to refrain for up to eight years from any work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Both countries agree that the missile program is separate from the nuclear deal, which rewards Iran’s agreement to curb its nuclear program with the lifting of sanctions.
The Strait of Hormuz, a strategic Persian Gulf waterway, sees nearly a third of all oil traded by sea pass through it and has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988.