Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity

President Hassan Rouhani (L) sitting in the cockpit of the ‘Kowsar’ domestic fighter jet, at the National Defense Industry exhibition in the capital Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 02 September 2018
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Iran says it plans to boost ballistic, cruise missile capacity

DUBAI: Iran plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying on Saturday.
News of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran’s future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, following the US pullout from Tehran’s nuclear agreement with world powers.
State media also reported the launch earlier this week of war games involving some 150,000 volunteer Basij militia members, who vowed to defend the Islamic state against “foreign threats” including its arch foe, the United States.
Tehran is furious over US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.
Senior Iranian officials have warned the country will not yield easily to a renewed US campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. They say the country’s missile program is solely for defense purposes and is not negotiable as demanded by the United States and European countries.
“Increasing ballistic and cruise missile capacity ... and the acquisition of next-generation fighters and heavy and long-range vessels and submarines with various weapons capabilities are among the new plans of this ministry,” said Mohammad Ahadi, deputy defense minister for international affairs, IRNA said.
Speaking to Tehran-based foreign military attaches, Ahadi said international sanctions had not hampered the development of Iran’s arms industry.
“We have the necessary infrastructure and what we need to do is research and development, and at the same time upgrade and update the defense industry while relying on the country’s very high scientific capacities and tens of thousands of graduates in technical fields and engineering,” Ahadi was quoted as saying.
He also defended Iran’s role in conflicts in Iraq and Syria: “If Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq had not stopped Islamic State, today the map of the region would be different and the world would face a terrible challenge.”
Separately, the head of the Defense Ministry’s naval industries said Iran was developing a water jet propulsion system that would be ready by next March and a military commander said the air force planned to adopt Iran’s new Kowsar fighter plane after successful tests, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic’s military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.
The exercises by the Basij militia, which are led by the elite Revolutionary Guards, come ahead of massive annual rallies planned for later this month to mark the start of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
“The motto of these war games is unity ... and to declare that, when it comes to adversity and threats from foreigners, we all join to defend the (Islamic Republic’s) system,” Basij commander Gholam-Hossein Gheibparvar was quoted as saying by IRNA. 
Meanwhile, Iran on Saturday rejected a Reuters report that Tehran has moved missiles to Iraq, saying it aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbors, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned” by the reports that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to quickly form a new government after a May 12 parliamentary election.
“Such false and ridiculous news have no purpose other than affecting Iran’s foreign relations, especially with its neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according to IRNA.
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there.
“This news is solely aimed at creating fears in the countries of the region,” Qassemi added.
Pompeo, in his tweet on the reports of the transfer of the missiles, said, “If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231.”
He was referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which underpinned the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iraq and six world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal earlier this year and his administration is currently reimposing sanctions against Tehran.
Earlier, Pompeo spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi “to reaffirm US support for Iraq’s efforts to form a modern, nationalist Iraqi government,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Pompeo emphasized the importance of safeguarding Iraq’s sovereignty during this critical time, she said.
He also spoke to Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to discuss political developments and relations between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in north Iraq, Nauert added.
Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
It would also embarrass France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite the new US sanctions against Tehran.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 18 September 2018
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.