Iran’s Revolutionary Guard recently announced that they have been working on an underground missile program. The timing is no coincidence.

Why is Iran Revealing Their New Missile Program Now?

Amid heightened tensions with the US and Israel, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard announced the completion of an underground missile base in the Persian Gulf, though without specifying the exact location.

“The base is one of several of these types that house strategic missiles,” said the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Major General Hossein Salami. “These projectiles have a range of several hundred kilometers and are very accurate,” he added.

At the beginning of July 2020, the Revolutionary Guard announced that they had built underground “on- and offshore missile cities” in the Persian Gulf in order to “deter the country’s enemies from military aggression.” In July, the Guard said they had successfully conducted tests in the region underground ballistic missiles and a military satellite.

“The underground missiles hidden deep underground were fired successfully and without a launchpad,” said Amir-Ali Hajisadeh, Iran’s aerospace department commander. State television showed videos and pictures.

Iran’s Government Likes to Showcase the Nation’s Military Prowess

There are repeated reports in Iran of new military achievements. However, most cannot be independently verified. Iran has one of the most extensive missile programs in the region and calls it an essential part of a deterrence strategy and retaliatory option. On the other hand, the West sees missiles as a threat to regional stability and potential delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, according to its supreme spiritual leader, the Islamic Republic is not insisting on the US returning to the Vienna International Nuclear Agreement but is still calling for the US sanctions to be lifted. It is not about “whether America comes back or not; we are in no hurry, and we do not insist on her return,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. “Our rational and logical demand is the lifting of the brutal sanctions.”

“If the other party is practically not fulfilling any of its obligations, it is not logical for the Islamic Republic to honor all of its obligations,” Khamenei said in a speech on television. “When the US returns to its commitments, we will return to ours.”

What’s Next For the Iran Nuclear Deal and Iran’s Relationship with the West?

The 2015 nuclear deal aims to ensure that Iran does not acquire the capabilities to build a nuclear bomb. US President Donald Trump, who was voted out in November, unilaterally terminated the agreement, which he considered inadequate, in May 2018 and then put new tough sanctions against Tehran into force.

So far, he has tried in vain to persuade Tehran to make concessions on the nuclear and missile program and to support local militias. Since then, Iran has also gradually withdrawn from the agreement. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, agreed to return to the agreement, provided that Iran strictly adhered to the conditions.

Other parties to the deal, notably Germany, Britain, and France, have urged Iran to return to its commitments. It was only on Monday that Tehran officially enriched uranium to 20 percent, which is a clear violation of the nuclear agreement.

However, the situation remains complicated, especially with regard to Iran’s elections in June. President Hassan Rouhani, a reformist by Iran’s standards, cannot run again. Given that his legacy will be synonymous with the nuclear deal, he would like to agree with the US and free his country from the sanctions, which have crippled Iran’s economy and significantly decreased Rouhani’s popularity.

Meanwhile, the hardliners in the government, including former members of the Revolutionary Guard, hope to become Rouhani’s successor and end the latter’s approach of opening the country up to the West. They have thus begun to sabotage Rouhani’s tactics to prevent him from succeeding in the nuclear dispute and put themselves in a good position for the elections. After the increase in uranium enrichment and the South Korean tanker incident, the missile base is yet another piece of the puzzle for hardliners to achieve their aims.