JERUSALEM – Iran on Sunday rejected an American proposal to negotiate a “new arrangement” on the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said Sunday that Tehran’s missile and defense programs were not up for negotiations, echoing similar comments made by officials in the country’s army and Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Zarif made the comments during a press conference with the Estonian foreign minister in Tehran.
The U.S. condemned recent Iranian ballistic missile tests, saying they violated a United Nations ban on tests of such weapons.
Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that the U.S. and its allies were “prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution,” but that Iran first had to “make it clear to everybody that they are prepared to cease these kinds of activities that raise questions about credibility and questions about intentions.”
He made the comments during a visit to Bahrain on Thursday.
Since then, several Iranian officials responded to Kerry, all rejecting his idea and insisting on Tehran’s right to carry on with the development of long-range missiles.
On Saturday, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan dismissed Kerry’s comments as “nonsense.”
The Iranian news agency Tasnim reported, “Dehqan reacted angrily to the comments by John Kerry about Tehran’s missile program, saying the top U.S. diplomat had better think for a couple of minutes to avoid such absurd remarks and erroneous analyses.”
Revolutionary Guards deputy chief General Hossein Salami made comments echoing Dehqan.
According to the Fars news agency, Salami said “the U.S. is not qualified to make comments about our defense power. Our missile capabilities will never be negotiated or compromised.”
Iran’s missile capability, Salami said, was a “back-up for Iran’s prestige, honor, survival, and dignity.”
Another official, Deputy Chief of Staff of Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazzayeri, warned the U.S. on Friday that Iran’s missile power was a red line.
“We are stressing what has been said several times, that is, our missile power is non-negotiable. … Iran doesn’t get permission from anybody,” he was quoted by Fars as saying.
Brig.-Gen. Rasoul Sanayee Rad, another deputy commander at the IRGC, said Sunday that Iran’s missile program was a component of the country’s power of deterrence.
“The reality is that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile capability is a deterrence power and its nature is for defending the country against aggressive enemies,” Rad told Fars.
He said that the history of wars in the region showed that Iran had always acted defensively and has never attacked any country.
No country in the world puts its defense capability to negotiation, Rad said.
“If today we witness the Islamic Republic of Iran’s might in all international arenas, including nuclear talks, it is due to the same deterrence power.
“If we want to retrieve our rights from the hands of the bullying power we should strengthen our deterrence power; therefore, even if we seek dialogue we should know that we cannot succeed without the back-up of our deterrence power,” Rad said.
Zarif on Sunday shot back at Kerry’s offer, saying that the U.S. should cut off arms sales to regional countries so that the lives of people in the Middle East will be protected.
“If the U.S. government is really serious about the defensive issues, it should cut the sale of weapons to the region that (are used to) slaughter the innocent people of Yemen every day,” Zarif said, according to Tasnim.
He also called for measures to prevent Israel from employing the weapons that are used, according to Tasnim, for attacking “civilians.” The foreign minister used the term Zionist Regime, Iran’s term when referring to Israel.