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Iran’s Army Chief Lashes Out Against New U.S. Sanctions

Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, undated.

The head of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, bitterly criticized a new U.S. plan to impose sanctions on the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

“Drawing a similarity between the IRGC and terrorist groups and imposing the same sanctions [used against terrorists] on the IRGC would be a big risk to the U.S. and its bases and forces stationed in the region,” local media reported Bagheri as saying on July 17.

“Iran’s missile power is defensive and never negotiable on any level,” he said, addressing a meeting of commanders of the IRGC Ground Forces in the city of Mashhad.

The U.S. Senate voted decisively on June 7 to advance the Iran Sanctions Bill, which would impose new sanctions on the country. The vote was 92-7, clearing the way for a vote later on passage of the legislation.

One week later, the bill was amended and passed again by a wider 97-2 margin.

The bill would target what diplomats and lawmakers have characterized as Iran’s “non-nuclear” activity -- programs of concern for the U.S. government that are not directly related to its nuclear work, including Iran’s ballistic missile program and its human rights violations.

Tehran says passage of the bill would amount to a violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, JCPOA, or Iran’s nuclear deal with the world powers, signed in 2015.

The new bill needs the U.S. House of Representative’s approval as well as President Donald Trump’s signature to become law. The Trump administration has not yet commented on the bill.

Calling the new bill another “miscalculation” by the United States against Iran as a whole and against the IRGC in particular, Bagheri insisted on the “defensive nature” of Tehran’s missile program.

However, the military adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former IRGC Chief Commander Yahya Rahim Safavi, explicitly stated on June 23 that the Lebanese group Hezbollah, supported by Iran, is prepared for missile attacks against Israel.

There are published photos showing Iranian missiles with “Israel must be wiped out” written over their sides in Persian, as well as in Hebrew.

The move triggered a widespread negative reaction in Israel and among its close allies. Even President Hassan Rouhani was unhappy with the showoff and derided it as unhelpful.

Nevertheless, the IRGC retaliated by defending its missile program with full force.

Iran’s Armed Forces still spend huge sums of money for advancing their missile programs.

“Tehran has targeted German companies for assistance in advancing its missile program and, in one particular case, has been assisted by a Chinese company, which amounts to a JCPOA violation,” a German intelligence agency recently reported.

While concluding his comments, Bagheri did not miss the chance to call Iran’s political challengers in the region “stupid” and “betrayers” whose regimes are “cruel” and “unpopular.”

Iranian Army commanders, as a rule, used to humbly avoid rhetoric and the political war of words.

Apparently, Bagheri, quite contrary to the tradition of his predecessors, has firmly decided to disregard the army’s tradition by joining IRGC commanders in their saber rattling and chorus of threats against the West.