October 19, 2017 / 8:29 AM / in 2 months

Iran's Guards say missile programme will accelerate despite pressure

ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Thursday its ballistic missile programme would accelerate despite U.S. and European Union pressure to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

In a significant U.S. policy shift on Oct. 13, President Donald Trump disavowed Iran’s compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and launched a more aggressive approach to the Islamic Republic over its missile development activity.

“Iran’s ballistic missile programme will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organisation (the Guards),” the IRGC said in a statement published by Tasnim.

The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions aimed at impairing Iran’s missile programme. It has called on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans.

Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism.

“Trump’s anxiety and trembling voice in his speech was a sign of beginning of the era of failure for America’s hegemony,” Tasnim quoted IRGC chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying. “Boosting Iran’s defence power remains our top priority.”

Iran has one of the most advanced ballistic missile programmes in the Middle East, viewing it as an essential precautionary defence against the United States and other adversaries, primarily Gulf Arab states and Israel.

“Imposing cruel sanctions against the Guards and hostile approach of the rogue and brute (U.S.) president shows the failure of America and the Zionist regime’s (Israel) wicked policies in the region,” the Guards statement said.

Signalling no respite in tension in the Middle East, where Shi‘ite Muslim Iran has waged a long proxy war with U.S.-allied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, the Guards also vowed to continue confronting the United States and Israel.

“More decisive and stronger than ever, the Guards will continue to defend Islamic Iran and its interests,” the statement said, alluding to the Quds force, the Guards’ overseas arm that operates in Iraq, Syria and Yemen among other places.

Trump’s hardened Iran stance has united officials behind the IRGC.

“Today, Iranians, boys, girls, men, women, are all IRGC. Standing firm with those who defend us and the region against aggression and terror,” U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his twitter account after Trump’s speech.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams

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