Iran’s new defense minister said Saturday the priority was to boost the country’s missile program and export weapons to shore up neighboring allies.
“In combat fields, especially in missiles, we have a specific plan to boost Iran’s missile power,” said General Amir Hatami, who was appointed defense minister earlier this month, in a speech carried by the ISNA news agency.
“God willing, the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles will increase in this term,” he added.
Hatami also said Iran would look to export weapons “to prevent war and conflict.”
“Wherever a country becomes weak, others become encouraged to raid it… Wherever necessary, we will export weapons to increase the security of the region and countries, to prevent wars,” he said, without naming the countries.
Iran is a key supporter of Syria and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. Both threaten Israel with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles.
Hatami is the first defense minister to be selected from the regular army, rather than the elite Revolutionary Guards, in more than two decades.
Analysts say this reflects an increasing convergence between the two military arms as Iran increases its involvement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Iraq, which have been the Guard’s exclusive purview since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Israel has in recent years repeatedly hit convoys believed to be transferring advanced rockets and missiles, being transferred from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah.
Jerusalem has also warned against Iranian efforts to set up missile production facilities in Lebanon, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman telling United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a meeting in Israel earlier this week that Iran is “working to set up factories to manufacture accurate weapons within Lebanon itself.”
Liberman did not explicitly threaten to attack the Iranian missile factories in Lebanon, but he said that “the Lebanese government and the citizens of southern Lebanon should know” that Israel will be forceful in future conflicts.
The presence of at least two Iranian missile manufacturing facilities was revealed by Israel earlier this summer. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Guterres that Iran was also involved in the construction of another missile base in Syria.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri denied Israeli assertions that Iran has established weapons factories in Lebanon for the Hezbollah terror group, saying the allegations were part of a “disinformation campaign” by Israel.
“The Israelis know very well that there are no missile factories in Lebanon. They are used to running these disinformation campaigns,” Hariri told the French daily Le Monde in an interview published Friday.
The US has also imposed fresh sanctions on Iran due to its continued missile program.