Iran leader demands military boost its defences as tensions mount over 'missiles in Iraq'
IRAN'S Supreme Leader has demanded that the military boost their defence capacities amid fears the country is building ballistic missiles in neighbouring Iraq.
By Kat Clementine 15:06, Sun, Sep 2, 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38, Sun, Sep 2, 2018
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Iran’s armed forces to be “vigilant… and raise their personnel and equipment capacities" on Sunday.
At the same time, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry refused to deny that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi'ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.
It comes a day after Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines.
Tensions between Iran and the United States following the US' pullout from Tehran's nuclear agreement with world powers.
Mr Khamenei's official website said: "Ayatollah Khamenei emphasised that based on political calculations there is no likelihood of a military war but added that the armed forces must be vigilant and raise their personnel and equipment capacities."
Earlier US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was "deeply concerned" by news that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government quickly after a May 12 parliamentary election.
Mr Pompeo wrote: “Any sign Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
It also been seen as an embarrassment for France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new US sanctions against Tehran.
A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehra (Image: Reuters)
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.
Iraq's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was "astonished" at a Reuters report that Iran had moved missiles to Iraq and that the article was "without evidence", but stopped short of denying its contents.
The ministry in a statement said: "Iraq is not obliged to respond to media reports that lack tangible evidence backing up their claims and allegations.
"All state institutions in Iraq uphold Article 7 of the constitution, which prohibits the use of Iraqi land as a base or passage to be used in operations targeting the security of other states."
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran (Image: Reuters)
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi'ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.
The Iraqi government and military declined to comment at the time. In Sunday's statement, the Foreign Ministry said it was "astonished at the allegations" contained in the report.
Iran on Saturday rejected the report, which it said aimed to hurt Iran's ties with neighbours.
Saturday's news of the military development plans came a day after Iran dismissed a French call for negotiations on Tehran's future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last month the Islamic Republic's military prowess was what deterred Washington from attacking it.