- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2018

Iranian military leaders on Sunday vowed to press ahead with weapons testing of intermediate and long-range missiles, as well as other advanced arms systems, which have been banned by sanctions issued by the U.S. and United Nations.

“Missile tests … are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” Iranian military spokesman Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi said in a statement to state-run Tasnim news agency. “We will continue to both develop and test missiles. This is outside the framework of (nuclear) negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission,” he added, according to Reuters.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi doubled down on Gen. Shekarchi’s statements, reiterating Iran’s ongoing missile development efforts are strictly for the nation’s defense, adding the U.N.’s Security Council has approved no resolution prohibiting missile program and missile tests by Iran.”

Their comments came in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claims that Iran’s missile development work was in violation of the terms included in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the U.S. The Trump White House officially withdrew from the pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, the White House’s point man on curbing Iranian aggression across the globe, said Thursday that Washington stands prepared to use forces to curtail such weapons development activities.

“We will not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened,” said Mr. Hook, who pointed to recent attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Iraq as a provocation that the administration believes were carried out by Iran-backed militants who are also active in that country.

His comments Thursday were only the latest in a series of harsh rebukes by the Trump White House against Tehran’s vigorous pursuit of its interests across the globe, since the administration’s withdrawal from the landmark Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran. Mr. Hook’s comments also represent the administration’s latest gambit to bolster its case for supporting the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen, in the face of Wednesday’s congressional rebuke.

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