Iran’s supreme leader said on Sunday there was “no chance” of war but nevertheless called on the military to boost its preparedness, days after Tehran rejected France’s call to negotiate over its missile program.
Speaking to commanders and officials from the Khatam Al-Anbia Air Defense Base, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that “in terms of political calculations, there is no chance of a military war,” according to his website.
However, Khamenei stressed that the “armed forces must accelerate their human and equipment capabilities day by day, through vigilance, efficient and agile management.”
He singled out the importance of its air defenses, saying it was “at the frontline of confronting the enemies of Iran.”
On Saturday, Iran’s defense ministry said it planned to improve the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles. Mohammad Ahadi, Iran’s deputy defense minister for international affairs, also spoke of acquiring new jet fighters and submarines, state news agency IRNA reported.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity … and the acquisition of new generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” Ahadi said, according to a translation by Reuters.
Iran last week unveiled what it said was a new fighter jet. The Kowsar was a “fourth-generation” fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar, the Iranian news agency Tasnim said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
But analysts quickly noted similarities between the plane and the F-5 fighter jet, made by Northrop-Grumman in the 1950s, and expressed doubts that the fighter was actually new.
Last month, the Islamic Republic also announced the development of a next-generation short-range ballistic missile.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that Iran must be open to discussions on its missile program and regional interventions.
Iran’s missile program is a major bone of contention, particularly with the United States and its allies. US President Donald Trump, who pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in May, has called for a new agreement that restricts Iran’s missile capabilities and regional meddling.
But on Friday, Iran rejected France’s call for talks on issues beyond the nuclear dossier, saying it was impossible so long as Western powers failed to meet existing commitments.
“There is no basis of trust for negotiations, certainly on subjects which are non-negotiable,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, according to the Tasnim news agency.
Ghasemi said Europe must first show it can salvage the 2015 nuclear deal following the withdrawal of the United States in May and its reimposition of sanctions.
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and claims its missiles are a legitimate defense against more heavily armed rivals.