Tehran says allegations are ‘baseless’; it did not violate the nuclear agreement.
Iran on Thursday rejected a warning from President Donald Trump over its latest missile test as unfounded and “provocative,” reflecting growing tensions between Tehran and the new U.S. administration.
Trump is a strident critic of the Islamic republic and a vocal opponent of an international deal that saw Iran curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. He said on Thursday that Tehran was now officially “on notice” after Sunday’s missile test and said all options were on the table.
“Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” Trump tweeted, echoing similar comments by National Security Adviser Michael Flynn a day earlier.
Trump told a journalist later the same day that “nothing is off the table” when asked if military action was a possibility.
Flynn insisted that the missile test was “in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231,” which calls on Iran not to test missiles capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
The remarks drew an angry response from Tehran.
“Claims made by U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser are baseless, repetitive and provocative,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Iran has confirmed that it tested a ballistic missile, but denied that it violated the terms of the nuclear deal. Tehran says its missiles do not breach U.N. resolutions because they are for defense purposes only and are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.
The row comes against a backdrop of already difficult relations over Trump’s travel ban on citizens from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries.
The U.S. warning prompted a defiant response from Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. “The number of Iranian missiles, warships and defense missile launchers is growing every day, and the sky, land and sea is under the control of this nation,” said General Hossein Salami, the number two in the Guards which is in charge of weapons programs. “This is not a land where an outsider can set foot with sinister intentions,” he said.
Iran has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, sufficient to reach Israel as well as U.S. bases in the region. There has been scant detail from the White House as to what its warning over the missile test means in practical terms, and it remains to be seen if Washington will push for new sanctions.
Ghasemi said that the U.S. warning came at a time when “the efforts by the Islamic Republic of Iran in fighting terrorist groups in the Middle East are known to all.”
“It is regrettable that the U.S. administration, instead of appreciating the nation of Iran for its continued fight against terrorism, is in practice aiding terrorist groups by repeating baseless claims and adopting unwise measures.” He referred to Syrian rebel groups which “directly or indirectly receive financial, logistic and intelligence support by the U.S. and its partners.”
Ghasemi dismissed charges of Iranian meddling in the region, saying Tehran wanted good relations with its neighbors based on “mutual respect and non-interference in countries’ domestic affairs.”