According to the semi-official Fars news agency, Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program. A senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and head of its airspace division, Amirali Hajizadeh, said, “Iran’s third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years…We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities forcefully.”
This recent development is only likely to aggravate tensions with the United States. The Trump administration has also imposed new sanctions based on Iran’s ballistic missile tests earlier this year and senior officials have put Iran on notice. Additionally, on his first foreign trip to the Middle East, President Trump called Iran a sponsor of militant groups and a threat to countries across the region.
In response to the new sanctions, Iran added nine American individuals and companies to its own list of 15 U.S. companies for alleged human rights violations and cooperation with Israel.
Iran response has been one of defiance. It’s newly reelected President Rouhani said on Monday, “Iran does not need the permission of the United States to conduct missile tests.”
He also noted that Iran’s missile program is part of Iran’s defense policies and they will continue to strengthen them. “Anytime we have a technical need to test-launch our missiles, we will do so. We accepted the nuclear deal to boost our defensive power,” said Rouhani.
Israel and Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbors have expressed concern about Tehran’s ballistic missile program, which they see as a threat to the overall security and stability of the region. In 2015, footage was aired in Iran showing underground tunnels with ready-to-fire missiles on the back of trucks. An announcer noted that it was one of hundreds of such sites across the country.
Iran also says that its missile program does not defy a U.N. resolution that calls on it to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. Most nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were lifted last year after Tehran fulfilled commitments under a 2015 deal with major powers to scale back its nuclear program, which has been criticized by Trump as being too soft on Tehran. But Iran remains subject to a U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions.
“Along with improving our defense capabilities, we will continue our missile tests and missile production. The next missile to be produced is a surface-to-surface missile,” said Hajizadeh.