March 22, 2016

Translation: Rouhani expresses support for Iran's missile program in December letter

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps test-fired several ballistic missiles in March, renewing international attention toward Iran’s missile program. Some in the West have pointed to the losses of hardliners in recent elections as indications that Iran’s foreign policy will begin to change. The notion that domestic moderation will translate into changes in Iranian international affairs requires more careful examination than it has received, however. An open letter President Hassan Rouhani wrote to Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan on December 31, 2015 shows that this assumption is tenuous at best regarding the missile program. Rouhani published the letter to emphasize his personal support for the missile program shortly after reports had emerged that the White House was considering new sanctions in response to ballistic missile tests in October and November. The full text of the letter states:

IRGC Brigadier General Dr. Hossein Dehghan

Respected Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics

As the American government evidently intends to add new individuals and institutions to its previous list of oppressive sanctions in a continuation of its hostile policies and its illegal and illegitimate interference in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s right to strengthen its defensive power, the program to produce the armed forces’ necessary missiles must continue with greater speed and seriousness within the framework of approved defense policies.

In the event that America repeats such erroneous and interventionist actions, the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics is responsible for developing a new plan to expand the country’s missile capabilities with the use of all of its facilities.

I must emphasize that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s defensive capabilities have been a factor of regional security and stability. It is no threat to others. It is instead only for the defense of its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, for the fight against the scourge of terrorism and extremism, and for common global and regional interests.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has announced during the nuclear negotiations that it will never negotiate with anyone over its legitimate defensive power, including its missile program. It has emphasized its legitimate defensive right, and it will not accept any limitations in this regard.

It is clear that Iran’s missile program is in no way a part of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). American officials have also acknowledged this. As it has been announced numerous times, nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defensive doctrine. The development and production of Iran’s ballistic missiles, which have never been designed to carry nuclear warheads, will therefore continue with power and strength as an important and conventional tool for the defense of the country.[1]

Hassan Rouhani



[1] Rouhani’s remark that Iran’s ballistic missiles “have never been designed to carry nuclear warheads” is a reference to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.” See “Resolution 2231 (2015),” United Nations Security Council, July 20, 2015. Available:
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