Ar­rivals mark halt to en­try ban

Mis­sile tests are part of the drills as ten­sion with U.S. es­ca­lates

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN CUN­NING­HAM erin.cun­ning­ham@wash­

Ira­ni­ans land in Bos­ton af­ter U.S. judge’s na­tion­wide or­der.

istanbul — Iran on Satur­day be­gan ex­ten­sive mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in a de­fi­ant re­sponse to a week of warn­ings from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing new sanc­tions, with a se­nior Ira­nian mil­i­tary com­man­der call­ing the ac­tions “fu­tile” and threat­en­ing to “rain” mis­siles down on the coun­try’s en­e­mies.

The Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s most in­flu­en­tial se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tion, said it would test mis­sile and radar sys­tems as part of the drill, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Is­lamic Repub­lic News Agency.

A state­ment on the IRGC web­site said that the aim of the ex­er­cise was “to show­case the power of Iran’s rev­o­lu­tion and to dis­miss the sanc­tions,” Reuters re­ported.

“Should the en­emy make a mis­take, our roar­ing mis­siles will rain down on them,” IRGC Air Force com­man­der, Gen. Amir Ali Ha­jizadeh, told the semiof­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency.

Iran also threat­ened its own sanc­tions on un­named U.S. in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies, say­ing it would “take ac­tion” against those it deemed “to have played a role in gen­er­at­ing and sup­port­ing ex­trem­ist ter­ror­ist groups.” The state­ment from Iran’s for­eign min­istry came a day af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced new sanc­tions on in­di­vid­u­als work­ing on Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams, as well as those who have helped the IRGC sup­port U.S.-des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist groups.

Those sanc­tions were in re­sponse to Iran’s suc­cess­ful test­ing of a medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile last week, which the United States says is a vi­o­la­tion of the 2015 nu­clear deal aimed at curb­ing Iran’s nu­clear weapons de­vel­op­ment.

Pres­i­dent Trump said that Iran was “play­ing with fire” and that Iran had been put “on no­tice” for the mis­sile test. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis also called Iran the “big­gest state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism” on Fri­day.

At least three types of mis­siles were sched­uled to be tested dur­ing the drills in Iran on Satur­day, the pri­vately owned Mehr News Agency re­ported, as well as radar sys­tems and cy­ber­war­fare tech­nol­ogy.

The drills capped a week of ris­ing ten­sions be­tween the United States and Iran, which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has also faulted for an at­tack by Iranaligned Houthi rebels on a Saudi Ara­bian fri­gate off the coast of western Ye­men.

For nearly two years, the United States has sup­ported a Saudiled coali­tion in a dev­as­tat­ing war in Ye­men that the United Na­tions says has killed 10,000 civil­ians.

Ex­perts say the es­ca­la­tion be­tween the United States and Iran prob­a­bly won’t un­ravel the nu­clear deal, a mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ment made to ease sanc­tions on Iran in ex­change for re­stric­tions on its nu­clear pro­gram. The deal was ne­go­ti­ated by China, France, Rus­sia, Bri­tain, the United States and Ger­many.

“Trump is un­likely to tear up the deal and shoul­der the full wrath of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Cliff Kupchan, chair­man of po­lit­i­cal risk firm Eura­sia Group, wrote in a brief­ing note.

In ad­di­tion to the mul­ti­lat­eral deal, a fol­low-up res­o­lu­tion from the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil calls on Iran to re­frain from test­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles ca­pa­ble of nu­clear pay­loads. But there is dis­agree­ment over whether such tests vi­o­late the res­o­lu­tion — Iran in­sists the mis­sile tests are part of its con­ven­tional weapons pro­gram and do not vi­o­late the nu­clear agree­ment.

Through­out his cam­paign for the pres­i­dency, Trump blasted the nu­clear deal and vowed to rene­go­ti­ate the terms.

“US-Iran re­la­tions will be volatile un­der the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Kupchan wrote. And Trump “will likely im­ple­ment sanc­tions more fre­quently.”

Ira­nian of­fi­cials re­it­er­ated the coun­try’s right to main­tain de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted Fri­day that Iran was “un­moved” by the threats.

“We will never use our weapons against any­one, ex­cept in self-de­fense,” he said.

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