Despite Western Outreach, Iran Increases Weaponry, Personnel for Regional Wars

Breaking Israel News pointed out on Sunday that the Fateh series is considered to be the most accurate series in Iran’s current missile stockpiles. The new advancement to those missiles suggests that Iran may now have the capability to fire missiles from Tehran and accurately strike targets in eastern Iraq. Furthermore, deployment of such a missile system to other regions where Iran is fighting either directly or by proxy could allow its forces to take aim at specific targets in Saudi Arabia or Israel.

Defense Update also notes that other, less accurate missiles that are already in Iran’s possession purportedly have much longer ranges. For instance, the Sejjil missiles are reportedly capable of reaching as far as 2,000 kilometers away, putting both Tel Aviv and Riyadh in range of Tehran. Furthermore, Iran reportedly announced successful tests of other missiles on the occasion of Defense Industry Day as well, including air-fired cruise missiles with ranges of about 700 kilometers.

The Guardian adds that Iran’s official IRNA news network broadcast unsubstantiated and non-specific claims on Saturday about a recent capture of a reconnaissance drone. Iranian military officials have made numerous claims in the past about cloning captured drones and upgrading its own technology to match the specifications of foreign military equipment.

Breaking Israel News emphasizes that the development of the Fateh 313, an advanced ballistic missile, violates the nuclear agreement that was signed on July 14 and quickly implemented by the United Nations. The Guardian agrees, pointing out that UN resolution 2231 specifies that Iran will not be permitted to undertake work on ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

While there is every indication that this applies to the Fateh 313, Iranian officials have disregarded the restriction by simply saying that they do not intend to arm the missiles with nuclear warheads and that this is sufficient to absolve the regime of its need to abide by the UN’s declared restrictions.

More than that, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose election in 2013 was greeted by the Obama administration as a victory for moderation and a chance for rapprochement, used a speech on Saturday to explicitly reiterate that the Islamic Republic will not follow the elements of the nuclear deal related to military arms.

“We will buy weapons from anywhere we deem necessary,” Rouhani said on Iranian state television. “We won’t wait for anybody’s permission or approval and won’t look at any resolution. And we will sell weapons to anywhere we deem necessary.”

Under the nuclear agreement, restrictions on Iran’s sale and purchase of ballistic missiles is meant to remain in place for eight years, and restrictions on conventional weapons for five years. But Iran’s rejection of these provisions was made even clearer on Saturday when Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh declared the intention of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace division to carry out large-scale war games involving ballistic missiles in the near future.

Such defiant pronouncements and plans are very much in keeping with the broader behavior exhibited by Iranian officials, including those involved in the nuclear negotiations, since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported, for instance, that lead nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi once again presented a narrative of Iranian victory in the negotiations, while speaking to an academic gathering in Tehran on Sunday.

“The Americans were saying explicitly that they would not allow Iran to have heavy water (reactor). They did not agree to even mention the name of Arak reactor in the Geneva deal… but in the JCPOA, they ultimately acknowledged the Arak heavy water (reactor should remain), and this is the US’s failure,” Araqchi said.

This language is in contrast to the public statements made by the Obama administration and its allies about the deal. While Western proponents of the agreement have attempted to paint it as a victory for Western interests and international security, they have nonetheless presented it as a compromise agreement, steering clear of combative or evocative references to failure or defeat on the other side of the negotiations.

This contrast extends to the further behavior of the two sides in the month since the signing of the JCPOA. The latest example of a Western focus on rapprochement came on Sunday when Britain held a ceremony to reopen its embassy in Tehran, which was shuttered in 2011 after being stormed and vandalized by hardline protesters.

British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said on Sunday, “Today’s ceremony marks the end of one phase in the relationship between our two countries and the start of a new one – one that I believe offers the promise of better.”

Notwithstanding Rouhani’s endorsement of defiance on military issues and the demonstrated lack of progress on issues such as Iran’s support for terrorism and record on human rights, Reuters notes that Hammond went on to say that relations between Iran and the West had been improving “step by step” since Rouhani’s ascendancy to the office of president.

However, Reuters also highlights Western economic interest in Tehran’s oil, gas, and export markets, suggesting that this might provide some policymakers with ulterior motives for pushing a strategy of rapprochement and conciliation in spite of the persistence of hostility from the Rouhani administration and other elements of the Iranian regime.

The news agency reminded readers on Sunday that there had been “a flurry of European visits – including from German and French ministers – aimed at positioning for the end of Iran’s long economic isolation” following the conclusion of nuclear negotiations. Indeed, the Economic Times notes that Hammond himself became the latest participant in this trend on Sunday when he used the reopening of the embassy as an opportunity to meet with the governor of the Central Bank of Iran to discuss what he referred to as the “huge appetite both on the part of our commercial and industrial businesses to engage with the opportunity of Iran opening up and [the] huge appetite on the part of our financial institutions to support that activity.”

Opponents of the nuclear deal and of the Iranian regime in general have expressed severe concerns about the effects that could proceed from providing such a rush of economic activity, as well as the agreement’s immediate sanctions relief, to a regime that is still ideologically and strategically opposed to Western policies.

A new angle on these possible adverse effects was suggested by IranWire on Friday when it reported that the Iranian parliament had introduced a law to streamline the process of obtaining citizenship for refugees and foreign nationals who volunteer to participate in Iran’s proxy wars. The promise of increased economic activity may provide greater incentive for already-exploited refugees, including a large population of Afghans, to pursue citizenship by any means available, in order to obtain legal and property rights that are currently denied to them.

In the midst of Iran’s defense of the regime of Bashar al-Assad during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, it has come to light that many Afghan refugees have been sent to Syria from Iran with promises of modest monetary compensation and much-coveted permanent resident status. The newly introduced law appears deliberately aimed at sweetening the deal in order to bring more volunteers under Iranian control and to further preserve the rule of an allied dictator who is opposed by the West and remains at serious risk of deposal.

IranWire quotes human rights lawyer and Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi as commenting on this legislation by saying, “It is really a pity that some people who bear the title of representative sit in parliament and, instead of thinking about Iran’s national interest and reputation, are more interested in enabling war in the region.”

Such criticisms naturally support the conclusion that Iran’s newly introduced weaponry is also viewed by many in the regime as a means to extend its power via the same regional wars. And given that these wars often involve Western supported governments and rebels on the side opposite Iran, the same criticisms raise questions about the current Western narrative of post-JCPOA rapprochement.