Dialogue or missiles: divisions between hardliners and reformists among Iran’s top brass over how to deal with the West have been exposed in the wake of recent ballistic tests.
The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that missiles are key to the country’s future.
“In this jungle-style circumstances in the world, if the Islamic Republic merely goes after negotiations and economic exchange and even science and technology without having defense capacity, will even small governments not allow themselves to threaten the Iranian nation?” he says in comments translated into English on his official website.
Strongly criticising those who saw the world as one of “negotiations and not that of missiles”, he added that such a claim could amount to “treason”.
The comments are being seen as a dig at leading moderate and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who tweeted last week that “the future is in dialogue, not missiles”.
Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, supported last year’s nuclear deal with world powers but has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies, and maintain its economic and military strength.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted ballistic missile tests earlier this month, in what they said was a demonstration of Iran’s non-nuclear deterrent power.
The country’s missile programme was not banned by last year’s deal with world powers that curbed its nuclear activity. But UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the accord, called on Tehran not to test nuclear-capable missiles.
The United States and its allies Britain, France and Germany have accused Iran of defying the resolution, in a joint letter seen by Reuters to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Spain’s UN ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi.
“Out of this agreement (with major world powers), now Iranians have launched ballistic missiles. It is true that that has caused alarm and concern. But what kind of sanctions, what kind of measures should be applied is up to the Security Council members,” Ban Ki-moon said.
“They are the ones who will analyse whether this ballistic missile launch will be against, will be a violation against the terms and references and resolutions of the Security Council, or what kind of measures should be taken. I expect the Security Council will be carefully discussing this matter.”
Russia, which has a veto at the Security Council, says the tests do not violate Resolution 2231.
Tehran has repeatedly denied that its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.