Jerusalem, Feb. 7 – Iran is doubling its defense budget and pushing ahead dozens of weapons programs while continuing to reject international demands to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program.
The massive Iranian arms buildup comes in the face of harsh United Nations and other international economic sanctions aimed at getting the Islamic Republic to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Despite the sanctions that are squeezing Iran’s economy, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a new budget last week that more than doubles defense spending to some $416 billion. An Iranian news agency reported 21 new weapons development programs and a new production line for the home-grown Zafar anti-ship missile was launched shortly after Iranian leaders recently threatened to attack the vital shipping lanes in the strategic Straits of Hormuz.
At the same time, Iran is pouring billions of dollars into its civilian space program, but an expert says the recent launch of a civilian satellite is actually a cover for military activity.
“The satellite launch vehicle development program serves the [Iranian] ballistic missile programs,” said Tal Inbar, an expert in Iranian space programs and director of the space and UAV research center at Israel’s Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies.
Inbar says the Iranians have purchased missile technology from Russian and North Korea and that its launch vehicles closely resemble North Korean ballistic missiles.
As early as 2010, American officials feared an Iranian ballistic missile attack that could strike the continental United States was imminent. “There is real concern that the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015,” a congressional report said.
An Iranian news release Monday claimed “the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country.” However, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Khamenei, in a sermon broadcast nationwide last week, left no doubt that Iran was threatening Israel, calling it a “cancerous tumor in this region. It must be removed, and it will be removed.”