Zarif says Iran’s missile program needed for defense
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Zarif says Iran’s missile program needed for defense

Foreign minister warns Tehran can walk away from nuclear agreement if Trump doesn’t certify to Congress that Iran is compliant

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on, as he attends a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on August 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on, as he attends a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on August 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday defended his country’s latest ballistic missile test in defiance of Western and Israeli criticism, saying the controversial program served the Islamic Republic’s defensive needs.

“Iran has defensive needs,” Zarif told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview aired Sunday. “Iran is not buying a hundred billion dollars of so-called beautiful military equipment from the United States.”

“Iran needs to develop its own defenses, we have said and again, and we have proven that our missiles are for defense,” he emphasized.

“You know, we go back to a history where our cities were being showered with missiles from Saddam Hussein… and Iran did not have a single missile to work as a deterrence against its citizens,” Zarif added referring to the bloody Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.

The top diplomat also cautioned that Iran was prepared to abandoned the landmark nuclear deal reached under the Obama administration in 2015 if the current US president finds Tehran non compliant with the agreement.

“Iran will look at the outcome of the process and will consider its options — Iran has a number of options — which includes walking away from the deal, and going back with greater speed to its nuclear program” Zarif said, echoing similar comments from other Iranian officials.

He went on to say that under Trump, the US was proving to be “unreliable” in international agreements.

“If the world cannot relay on the United States as a negotiating partner, nobody will negotiate,” Zarif said.

On Friday, Iran displayed and released footage of its latest ballistic missile that is capable of reaching Israel and much of the Middle East.

Iran announced on September 23, 2017, that it has successfully tested a new missile, with a 1,250-mile (2,000 km) range, capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the Gulf. (Screenshot/PressTV)

The nosecone of the missile has a range of 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) and can carry multiple warheads.

The test came at the end of a heated week of diplomacy at the UN General Assembly in New York, where Trump again accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East, calling it a “rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

On Saturday, Trump said the missile launch called into question Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal.

He has threatened to declare Iran to be in breach of the deal unless it is expanded to punish the country for pursuing a ballistic missile program and for sponsoring foreign militant groups.

On October 15, Trump is due to tell the US Congress whether he is ready to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 deal. If he refuses to do so, it could open the door to renewed US sanctions and the collapse of the deal.

Agencies contributed to this report

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