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memri
November 21, 2017 No.
7191

Iranian Officials To Europe: Hands Off Our Ballistic Missiles – They're Not Aimed At You, And Can Even Serve Your Security Needs

After comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, and apparently also by other European elements, about a need for a discussion with Tehran on the issue of Iran's ballistic missile development program, Iranian regime spokesmen reiterated Tehran's position of rejection of any and all foreign interference in this matter.

This absolute rejection was expressed in two ways. Officially, Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, threatened harm to French national interests if France continued to act in this direction.[1] At the same time, Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Hashmatollah Falahat-Pishe reassured the Europeans and offered an enticement. He reiterated earlier statements by the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, who had said that Iran had restricted the range of its missiles so that they would not reach Europe, and that therefore Iran was not a threat to Europe (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1357, IRGC Commander Jafari In Message Meant To Reassure Europe: Right Now, We Are Settling For Missiles With 2,000-Km Range – A Range That Covers U.S. Forces In The Region, November 13, 2017). Moreover, he said, Europe could benefit from the security offered by Iran's missiles, which "can constitute a barrier to threats entering Europe," but gave no details about what such threats might be or who would pose them.

Falahat-Pishe stressed that Iran had made a strategic decision in 2011 not to threaten enemies situated beyond the range of 2,000 km, because, he said, U.S. President George W. Bush had depicted Iran as a threat to Europe. For this reason, Iran announced a halt to the production of its Shihab 4 missile, which has a range of over 2,000 km. It should be noted that according to a statement by then-Iranian chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi Iran had, in nuclear negotiations in 2013-2015, agreed to restrict the range of its missiles to only 2,000 km, covering Israel – which he said is a red line for the Iranian regime – and the Obama administration agreed to this.[2]

It should be noted that although Falahat-Pishe called the 2,000-km range strictly defensive, this range is accepted in the professional community as clearly offensive.

This report will present the statements by Velayati and Falahat-Pishe, along with an article published by an Iranian reformist daily calling on the Iranian regime to discuss its missile program with Europe, with the aim of protecting Iran's national interests, both in order to gain European recognition of its need for missiles with a 2,000-km range, and in order to prepare the ground for its expansion in the region, beyond Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq:[3]

Velayati: "It Is Not In Macron's And France's Interest To Interfere In Iran's Missile And Strategic Matters... Who Is He To Interfere?"

On November 18, 2017, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: "I reject and condemn the recent anti-Iran positions of the French president. It is not in Macron's and France's interest to interfere in Iran's missile and strategic matters, because they are very sensitive for us. Interference of this kind will do nothing but detract from France's value in Iran's eyes.

"As an Iranian who is familiar with the foreign policy issues and the history of France, I suggest that France follow the path of Gen. de Gaulle, when he led foreign policy – that is, that it act semi-independently [i.e. not following U.S. policy].

"We are not asking permission from foreigners [regarding our decisions] on Iranian defense issues. [We are not asking them] whether we will have missiles or not, or how many kilometers these missiles' range will be.

"How is this issue connected to Macron? Who is he to interfere? If he wants Iran-France relations to flourish, he must not interfere in such matters. This is against French national interests.

"Obviously, our answer will be negative [to discussion of the missile issue]. Why is he raising this issue, when after he is told no, they will say that Macron has failed with his policy? He must do something [that succeeds,] after which they will say that his policy succeeded.

"Macron must hear what I, as an Iranian citizen, am saying: [He must] agree that if he interferes in this matter, our answer will certainly be negative, and there is no chance, not even one percent of a chance, that we will say yes to a request that interferes in our national affairs.

"I also reject some of the recommendations of some of the people in Iran, that we must conduct missile talks with Europe. No independent country offers its national interests for sale at clearance prices."[4]

Falahat-Pishe: "Iran Can Wipe Out The Zionist Regime With Conventional Weapons"

On November 6, 2017, Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy committee member Hashmatollah Falahat-Pishe was interviewed by the ISNA news agency on the issue of Iran's missiles. In an attempt to persuade the Europeans that the missiles were no threat to Europe, he stressed that they were aimed only at Israel and at American interests in the Middle East.[5] The following are the main points of the interview:

"IRGC commander Gen. Jafari noted that according to the policy of the Leader [Khamenei], the range of our missiles is 2,000 km. This is connected to the fact that Iran decided in 2011 to freeze its Shihab 4 missile project. [President George W.] Bush at that time [sic] began a series of wars in the name of a Crusade, with the aim of igniting the Middle East, and wanted to persuade the Europeans that Iran was a threat to other countries.

"Iran then officially announced that the Shihab 4 missile project – a project for manufacturing a missile with a range of over 2,000 km – had been halted. Prior to this, Iran had carried out successful tests of the Shihab 3, whose maximum range was 2,000 km...

"We scrubbed the Shihab 4 project, because our defense strategy is based on Islam and the Koran – that is, we will attack only our enemies, and if they attack us, we will defend ourselves... 

"Iran can produce missiles with a range of more than 2,000 km, and it can attack the military bases of the U.S. and its allies, and can react to them appropriately and firmly.

"America and its allies must know that if they fire [anything] at Iran, even the smallest bullet, Iran will not differentiate between America and the Zionist entity. Therefore, according to our defense strategy, we can attack, in addition to America's military bases in the region, [also] the occupied territories [i.e. Israel]. Iran can eradicate the Zionist regime with conventional weapons. In order to wipe out the Zionist regime and its infrastructure, Iran never needs nuclear weapons... Iran has the technology to produce missiles with a range of more than 2,000 km, but this is not our strategy...

"America does not, in any way, have the means to present the issue of Iran's missiles as a global issue, because our missiles are for defense, not offense. They are conventional weapons, with no nuclear warhead – that is, they carry only conventional warheads. Additionally, their range in no way reaches over 2,000 km."

"Iran Has Missiles... And It Also Has Military Capability In The Region's Strategic Depth; Therefore It Can Constitute A Barrier To Threats Entering Europe"

"Iranian officials, from the military attaches in Iran's European embassies to foreign policy officials, and especially the president, must talk with their counterparts such as Macron, and present to them the issue of our strategic defense, because Iran's missiles with a range of less than 2,000 km can also serve the security of the EU.

"Iran has missiles like this, and it also has military capability in the region's strategic depth. Therefore it can constitute a barrier to threats entering Europe. If we move ahead with such a strategy, Europe will defend Iran's missile capability like it defends the JCPOA [nuclear deal]. This would require a comprehensive strategy.

"We must reduce the challenge vis-à-vis the enemy. When we reduce the challenge with America, we will manage to advance a move that will make the Europeans realize that that not only can cooperate with Iran economically, but can also benefit militarily by cooperating with Iran."[6]

Iranian Reformist Daily Arman Emrouz: "The Europeans Will Do Their Work And Will Agree To Iran's Defense Apparatus [i.e. Missiles]"

On November 11, 2017, the Iranian reformist daily Arman Emrouz published an article by lecturer and academic Ahmad Naqib Zadeh calling on the regime to hold talks with the Europeans in order to protect Iran's national interests and to persuade them of Iran's need for missiles with a range of 2,000 km. Naqib Zadeh wrote that such talks were essential in order to clarify Iran's interest in, inter alia, Yemen, and in order to negate the argument that that Iran is interfering in the region. The following are the main points of his article:

"The Europeans have said many times that they disagree with America in the matter of Iran and in the matter of the JCPOA, [while at the same time] agreeing with America in the matter of Iran's missile program. They have said many times... that they want to discuss the missile issue with Iran. But unlike the Americans, they do not want to levy new sanctions without talks and prior warnings, or for Iran to halt and cancel this [missile] program completely. 

"True, they said that if they do not achieve results in this matter, they may levy new sanctions, and to some degree the European positions seem wise, because they want both to silence the noise that the Americans are making and also do not want the issue of Iran's missiles to become a crisis from which there is no way back.

"Iran also is in good shape; it has achieved its goals and can stop the program at this point [i.e. the 2,000-km range]. A range of more than 2,000 km does not exist in Iran's plans. It is best for us to begin talks and remove the danger of war and of sanctions.

"If we do not hold talks, the Europeans may join the extremist and harsh positions of the Americans. Saudi Arabia is one country that can be harmed directly and seriously by Iran's missile array. Therefore, Saudi Arabia also supports this and has extremist and harsh positions regarding it [the missiles].

"The Europeans will do their work and will agree to Iran's defense apparatus. But they too are asking: What exactly is the purpose of these missiles? Because the range also covers Europe. Saudi Arabia also will be glad [if there are] talks on this matter.

"There is another point in these talks – the so-called 'Iran's interference in the region.' As was made clear when it was published in European media, [the Europeans] officially recognize Iran's interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not Iran's interest in Yemen. [Whatever Iran touches] beyond that [Iraq and Afghanistan] they call interference, and want to talk about it.

"Iran's negotiators must agree that the Europeans too deserve rights in the region. For example, France's interests in Syria and Lebanon – [France] had a long-standing relationship with them, and according to the Versailles Treaty, they were under its aegis. Moreover, it is possible to cooperate with the French.

"In any case, in talks, the term 'rights' has a relative meaning. What the Europeans call a concession, Iran sees as what it deserves.

"What worries [the Europeans] is that Israel is considered their classical ally.

"Iran has said many times that its missiles are conventional, and are not for nuclear purposes. In this matter, we stand on the clarity of our main position, and insist that Iran has a transparent aim with regard to its missiles – that is, Iran will make a move only when it sees fit.

"If Iran agrees to keep its missiles to a range of 2,000 km, perhaps the other side will realize that Iran's missile apparatus cannot be destroyed.

"Let us note the structure of [Iran's] passive defense apparatus [i.e. its missiles], and that it has no bombers. Iran needs to maintain its balance vis-à-vis Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the other countries in the region. From this angle, its missile apparatus has undeniable importance. The Europeans too want to provide security for its allies in the region.  

"The Europeans no longer talk about preconditions in the matter of Syria's future, and already officially recognize Iran's interests in Syria. They know very well what Iran's role is in fighting ISIS, and have reached the conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad's departure would not improve the situation in Syria. Therefore, Iran can officially recognize the Europeans' allies in certain regions, such as Yemen, in a way that will also preserve Iran's interests."[7]

 

[1] Majlis National Security Council spokesman Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, for example, called on the government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani to reconsider its relations with France, and wondered why Iran had to conduct its most significant commerce in Europe with the country with the most aggressive policy vis-à-vis it. Tasnim, Iran, November 20, 2017.

[3] It should be noted that the publication of this article was criticized in Iran's ideological circles. Former Iranian chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi argued that legal action should be taken against the newspaper for publishing statements in violation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's guidelines and in violation of the norms of conduct of the Islamic ummah. Yjc.ir, November 16, 2017.

[4] Tasnim (Iran), November 18, 2017.

[7] Arman Emrouz (Iran), November 11, 2017.