By Mehdi Jedinia, VOA
Iran's parliament is considering a proposal to spend nearly $550 million to bolster security and expand the country's missile program. The proposal follows an Iranian rocket strike on Islamic State in Syria that analysts called retaliation for twin terror attacks in Tehran and a warning to regional rivals.
The bill would raise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) budget to $8
billion, in addition to an already approved five-year development plan that
requires the government to earmark at least 5 percent of the national budget to
defense, particularly development of the multidimensional missile program.
The June 18 strike - the first time Iran fired missiles outside its borders in 30 years - hit IS command centers in the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor and a bomb-manufacturing facility outside the city, the IRGC said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the "Islamic Republic will respond more decisively to any future terrorist attack on Iran's soil."
And former IRGC chief General Mohsen Rezai wrote on Twitter, "The bigger slap is yet to come."
A parliament correspondent in Tehran, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was little doubt the bill would pass because it projected patriotism and some legislators are retired IRCG commanders or have strong ties with the force.
Symbol of pride
Although Iran's defense budget is less than those of many of its Arab
neighbors, the missile program is considered a symbol of national pride and
Iran has surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, including the Zolfaghar, the kind Iran used to hit IS in Syria. The military also has missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), long enough to reach Israel and U.S. bases.
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi, former deputy speaker of parliament, has called the missile program one of the major pillars of sovereignty.
Babak Taghvaee, a Malta-based Iran military expert, said the additional fund for missile development "would probably be spent on the domestically produced Ya-Ali cruise missile, which was long awaited for financial sources."
"I assume a big chunk of this money is going to be dedicated to [research and development] on anti-jamming and target-error-correcting technology," he said. The money would be insufficient to push Iranian missile capability close to that of Chinese or Russian weapons, but it would help the Iranians "enhance their progress in terms of making missiles more accurate."
Still, the timing of the bill, which will be considered in the coming days, and the agility to be able to spend such a large amount are very important factors to consider, analysts say.
U.S. President Donald Trump sealed a $110 billion arms deal last month with
Iran's chief rival in the region, Saudi Arabia, and Tehran was stung by the
IS-claimed June 5 attacks on parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic
Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, that killed 17 people.
"The quick reaction of parliamentarians in putting together the bill and
accelerating country's missile program projects the level of insecurity Tehran
feels from its southern neighbors teaming up with the United States under the
Trump administration," said retired Iranian Admiral Houshang Aryanpour, now
based in Virginia.
"The successful missile strike, which was also a real-time test for them, was a great victory for IRGC to be rewarded after that huge frustration of the Tehran attacks," Aryanpour said. "This bill carries, for sure, a propaganda aspect within and serves domestic public opinion."
The U.S. and Israel are rankled by Iran's increasing missile activity, which they see as a threat to regional stability.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran this year over what it
called "bad behavior" with respect to Iranian missile tests, and on Thursday
the U.S. urged the United Nations to closely watch Iran's missile buildup.
The U.N. said Thursday that Tehran was in compliance with its obligations under an international nuclear deal, but U.S. envoy Nikki Haley disputed that.
Under Security Council Resolution 2231, Iran is "called upon" to refrain from
work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight
years. Tehran and Moscow argue that the language does not make such restraint
obligatory. The U.S. and Israel strongly objected to an Iranian missile test in
March 2016 that they said violated the U.N. resolution.
"Iran's destructive and destabilizing role in the Middle East goes far beyond its illicit missile launches," Haley said. "From Syria to Yemen and Iraq to Lebanon, Iran's support for terrorist groups continues unabated. Iran's weapons, military advisers and arms smugglers stoke regional conflicts and make them harder to solve."
Response to Passing of Deeply Flawed Iran Sanctions Bill (S.722) - "With a vote for this flawed sanctions bill the Senate Foreign Relations Committee decided to give Donald Trump new tools to kill the Iran deal and stumble into war with Iran. After Iranians overwhelmingly voted for openness and engagement, Senators have effectively endorsed Trump's calls for a provocative and dangerous approach to the Middle East. NIAC Action condemns this vote and urges the full Senate to abstain from moving the bill forward." -NIAC Action
Costs of the Clenched Fist - - In his first inaugural address, one of President Barack Obama's messages to America's adversaries was that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." A few years later, the unclenching of Iran's fist was marked by the election of reformist Hassan Rouhani and the entry of Iran into negotiations with the United States and five other powers, leading to a detailed agreement in which Iran accepted severe limitations on, and intrusive scrutiny of, its nuclear program and closed all possible pathways to possible acquisition of a nuclear weapon. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog
Saudi Rulers To Take War Dreams In Iran To Grave: Iranian Official - Iran's Foreign Ministry says Saudi leaders will take their wish to provoke a military attack against the Islamic Republic to their graves. The strong-worded reaction by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi came after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a recent interview that his country "will work to have the battle in Iran."
Trump's Alignment with Sunni Autocrats Masks Shallow Understanding of Region - President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia has engendered endless press reporting and analysis. Two key points stand out in the media coverage. First, the trip was mostly show than action. Second, the Saudis played up to Trump's craving for adulation and narcissism. They knew he was a fickle showman and acted accordingly. He of course loved it, and they proved that rich princely Bedouins could capture the world stage, at least for a fleeting moment. -Emile Nakhleh
JUST WHISTLING A TUNE IN A HURRICANE Mr. Trump's Historic First Foreign Trip - I watched with great disgust President Trump's long delivery at the gathering of Moslem heads of state in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His half-hour-long speech was eloquently worded, obviously not his words, as he lacks the degree of literacy or the command of the language required for that. The content of his speech was rhetorical, hypocritical and transparently shallow and, I might add, disgracefully dishonest. -Kambiz Zarrabi
Arms Deal Stories Omit War Crimes Arms Will Be Used For - The Trump administration wrapped up a weapons deal with the Saudi Arabian government this week that will be worth up to $350 billion over the next ten years. News of the deal came as Trump visited Riyadh and paid fealty to one of the United States' most enduring allies in the Middle East. -Adam Johnson, LobeLog
Trump's Riyadh Speech: Bowing to the Saudi Regime - The bar for Donald Trump's speech in Riyadh had been set so low that it was scraping the sand. How much could be expected from a notorious exploiter of Islamophobia speaking to a gathering of leaders of majority Muslim countries? Getting through the experience without causing major new damage should perhaps be considered a success. Perhaps Trump and his speechwriters were wise not to attempt anything more. -Paul R. Pillar, LobeLog 5/24/17
Trump in the Middle East: From 'America First' to Saudi and Israel first -
President Donald Trump's visit to the Middle East has turned out as expected: no
single act of outreach to the Muslim world could undo his fueling of
Islamophobia and no amount of Iranophobia could cover up the irony of Trump and
Saudi Arabia uniting against intolerance. -Trita Parsi, Middle East
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