Since taking office, President Trump has repeatedly pledged to take a harder line on Iran – a promise he upheld earlier this month when he levied sanctions against twenty-five individuals and organizations tied to Iran’s ballistic missile program on February 3rd. The sanctions came days after the Iranian military tested a nuclear capable missile that Trump claims violated a multilateral nuclear agreement.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard completed a three-day military exercise intended to increase coordination between teams tasked with manning rockets, artillery, tanks and helicopters within the nation’s military. Upon the completion of the exercise, General Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Guards’ ground forces, issued a statement that would seem be aimed directly at the American president.
“The enemy should not be mistaken in its assessments, and it will receive a strong slap in the face if it does make such a mistake,” said General Pakpour said to the press. “The message of these exercises … for world arrogance is not to do anything stupid.”
According to Iranian officials, their drills included the use of drones and “advanced rocket” systems. “Everyone could see today what power we have on the ground,” the Iranian general said.
Although Iran may be posturing its military in an effort to dissuade President Trump from considering military action to suppress their ballistic missile program, both Iran and Trump seem to value the 2015 nuclear agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Trump had previously been critical of the deal, but steered clear of effecting it when establishing new sanctions earlier this month.
“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests,” former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, said at the time. “The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”
Iran, however, countered that their ballistic missile program is a purely defensive measure, and in no way violates their nuclear agreement with world powers. According to Iranian officials, the medium-range ballistic missile they tested, although nuclear capable, was not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.
“We have confirmed that Iran did have a medium-size missile launch testing,” said Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN. “That is more than enough to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon,” she continued, adding that the US “is not naive.”
Iran claimed Trump’s sanctions were illegal, and responded publicly by accusing the United States of helping to fund local terrorist groups – an issue they stated they would address with sanctions of their own.
“In retaliation for the US sanctions, Iran will impose legal restrictions on some American individuals and entities that were involved in helping and founding regional terrorist groups,” their official statement, as released through Iranian state media, read.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also took to Twitter to respond to Trump’s sanctions and tough talk regarding their missile test. “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. Will never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.”
Image courtesy of Reuters