Iran sustains military spending in face of U.S. ‘maximum pressure’: general

February 24, 2020 - 19:27

TEHRAN — Former Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan has rejected claims by the Trump administration that Tehran had cut its defense budget due to the United States’ “maximum pressure” policy against Iran.

Iran has sustained its military spending in the face of debilitating U.S. sanctions, Dehqan said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday.

Over the past years, Iran has made major breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing military equipment and hardware despite sanctions and economic pressures on the country.

The Islamic Republic maintains that its military power poses no threat to other countries and is based on its military doctrine of deterrence.

“Militarily, today we are definitely in a better situation than three years ago when Mr. Trump came to power, in all aspects — from staff, organization to equipment. And we will be better in five years if Mr. Trump is re-elected,” said General Dehqan.

“In the region, since the formation of ISIS and the rise of insecurity, we have used all our capacity to organize, train and consult our allies.”

Trump administration officials have claimed one of their key successes has been to force Tehran to reduce Iran’s military spending by almost 30 percent, including cuts to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s budgets.

The standoff between Iran and the U.S. began after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran sealed with world powers, and imposed the most severe sanctions ever on the Islamic Republic. Iran and the U.S. came close to war last month after Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, was killed in an American drone strike. Soleimani’s Quds Force, the wing of the guards responsible for overseas operations, has led Iran’s fight against ISIS.

General Dehqan hinted at Tehran’s survival strategy: No retreat from sponsoring regional resistance groups or developing its missile program; no talks with Washington but avoid all-out war; and a bet that Mr. Trump’s policies will ultimately serve Iran by fueling anti-American sentiment and empowering its allies.

The U.S. strategy “is costing them and it costs us. But who is the winner now? Today, we believe our influence in the region has increased despite all this pressure,” said General Dehqan. “We will never abandon our regional allies...? We are not players, we are revolutionaries.”

On Iran’s retaliatory measures against the U.S. for Soleimani’s assassination, the former defense chief said “complimentary blows will happen over time” with the aim of driving U.S. forces from the region. But he added that Tehran would not stage attacks against the U.S. “unless America does [against Iran]”.

General Dehqan reiterated that Iran did not want a “full-blown war” with the U.S., but said negotiations would be pointless. “The U.S. thinks we are in a weak position and need to negotiate,” he said. “The U.S. wants to negotiate with us to say ‘why do you have missiles, why are you present in the region and why do you have military capabilities?’ What kind of negotiations are these?”

MH/PA

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