In what could be seen as an act of defiance against the Donald Trump hard-line stance against Iran, the country announced on Thursday that it has begun construction on a new, underground missile manufacturing facility as Iran's newly re-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, declared that Iran would not seek approval from the United States or any country to ramp up its missile-building program.
Iran says that the missiles built in the new facility and the country's other facilities are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to the country's English-language, state-owned media outlet, Press TV.
The announcement of the new missile factory, Iran's third such plant for building deadly missiles, comes just four days after Trump, speaking during a state visit to Saudi Arabia, accused Iran of having "fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror." In the speech, according to The New York Times, Trump clearly sided with the Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia against the Shiite Muslim Iran, even though it was Iran which held a national election on the same day.
Voters in Iran voted overwhelmingly for Rouhani, who is considered a "moderate" on Iran's political spectrum and who ran on a platform of peaceful coexistence with the international community. But Trump was unmoved by the Iran election results, calling on other nations to isolate the Persian Gulf nation entirely.
Earlier this month, Trump ratcheted up tensions with Iran, announcing new sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals linked to the country's ballistic missile-building program. And on Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-3 to authorize Trump to slap further sanctions on Iran, although the committee also voted to maintain the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama.
But even under the "moderate" Rouhani, Iran is striking a defiant pose, vowing to continue the country's missile-building efforts regardless of sanctions by the United States and the West.
"The U.S. leaders should know that whenever we need a missile test because of a technical aspect, we will test," he said in press conference in Tehran on Monday. "We will not wait for them and their permission."
The statement reiterated Rouhani's position stated in a speech last month, prior to the country's presidential election, in which he declared that "Iran will ask no soul's permission to build missiles." In the same speech, Rouhani described the state of Israel as "a cancerous tumor" and accused the United States of "crimes and acts of aggression" in the Middle East, according to an account by Iran's government-run PressTV.
The Iranian political leader also said that Iran's missiles are "only aimed at defending the country and will never be used against another country." But the United States has long accused Iran of supplying missiles and other support to terrorist groups, and last year, the Shi'ite terror organization Hezbollah confirmed that it receives virtually all of its financial backing, as well as missiles and other weapons, from Iran.
Speaking in Israel earlier this week, Trump claimed that the Obama administration's pact with Iran freezing the country's missile program in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions saved the country from financial destruction. But that claim appears far-fetched, according to an analysis by ABC News.
"I think they would have failed, totally failed within six months," Trump claimed. "We gave them a lifeline and we not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity. And we also gave them an ability to continue with terror and with all of the things they've been doing."
But according to experts, although sanctions had harmed Iran's economy, the country appeared nowhere near a state of collapse. Budget cuts and oil exports had revived Iran's economy despite the U.S. sanctions, while Japan and China continued to export products to Iran.
[Featured Image by Majid/Getty Images]