Iran Dismisses EU Criticism of Missile Program

Iran dismissed Brussels’ criticism of its missile program, regional policies and rights record on Tuesday, highlighting their increasingly testy relationship as both sides seek to salvage a troubled nuclear deal, Reuters writes.

Iran’s comments came a day after the bloc criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests and expressed concern at Iran’s role in growing Middle East tensions.

The EU has promised to abide by a 2015 nuclear deal under which Iran agreed to limit its atomic work in exchange for sanctions relief, even after President Donald Trump abandoned the accord because it did not cover Iranian military activities.

The Europeans have stepped up criticism of Iran’s ballistic missiles program and its regional policies in a dual-track approach analysts say is designed to show Washington it is possible to contain Tehran while remaining inside the nuclear pact.

The Iranian foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Tehran would never negotiate over its missile program, which it said was defensive and designed as a deterrent.

“Clear threats against the Islamic Republic are not constructive, efficient or helpful, and they are not in line with regional security and the real interests of Europe,” the foreign ministry said in a statement published on its website.

Iran has expanded its missile program in the last two decades, particularly its ballistic missiles, in defiance of the United States and despite concerns in Europe, especially France.

As part of EU efforts to sustain the nuclear pact, Britain, France and Germany last week launched the Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), a system to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and avoid U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. general in the Middle East says the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq is still focused on defeating ISIS, and has not shifted to “watching” Iran as President Trump said in an interview this past weekend, ABC News informs.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was “not consulted” by Trump before the President announced in mid-December that he was ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Syria, claiming ISIS there had been “defeated.”

“I think the government of Iraq understands the relationship, the view that we have on Iran and understands our concerns with Iran and the variety of destabilizing activities that they carry out around the region,” Votel added.

“But having said that, our military mission on the ground remains on the reason that the government of Iraq and that is focusing on the defeat of ISIS and now preventing a resurgence of that particular organization,” he said.

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