Iran lawmakers chant “Death to America” during vote to increase missile spending

IRAN — An overwhelming majority of Iran’s parliament voted on Sunday to increase spending on Tehran’s ballistic missile program and finance its elite paramilitary Revolutionary Guards in retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the United States of America and President Donald J. Trump.

Some members of Iran’s Parliament chanted “Death to America” after a total of 240 politicians out of 247 present voted to allocate $520 million to develop the country’s ballistic missile program and boost its foreign operations of the paramilitary troops, with only one member abstaining, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.

Seeking to “counter America’s terrorist and adventurist actions in the region,” the vote was viewed as a response to recently announced U.S. sanctions against the Muslim country.

The bill now heads to an oversight committee called the Guardian Council, which is expected to approve it.

Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator on hand for the vote, said moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s government would support the bill. “The bill has very wisely tried not to violate the (nuclear deal) and also gives no chance to the other party to manipulate it,” he said in comments reported by IRNA.

Terms of the bill specify that roughly $800 million will go towards several projects, including the Defense Ministry and its intelligence agencies. Among the agencies receiving money would be the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, an expeditionary force run by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has been in Syria and Iraq.

The Guard, separate from Iran’s conventional military forces, answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The bill also imposes a visa and travel ban on United States military and security organizations and their commanders who have provided financial, intelligence, military, logistic and training support to terrorists in the region, naming the Islamic State group and the Syrian branch of al Qaeda.

Iranian officials often accuse the U.S. of being involved with both groups. The U.S. is actively involved in a massive military campaign against the Islamic State group and has struck the al-Qaida affiliate as well.

The bill also includes banning visas for American officials involved with the Iranian exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Prominent U.S. lawmakers and politicians have met with the group and spoken at its rallies. In the past, the MEK has paid one of President Donald J. Trump’s cabinet members and at least one adviser for giving such speeches.

The money will also be used to develop nuclear propellers, according to IRNA.

In December, Rouhani ordered officials to draw up plans on building nuclear-powered ships, something that appears to be allowed under the nuclear deal, over an earlier dispute on U.S. sanctions under President Barack Obama’s administration.

President Donald J. Trump signed a sanctions bill earlier this month that included new measures imposed on Iran, sparking outrage from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who then accused the president of trying to “kill” the nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, Iran stated, as it has before, that they would consider new U.S. sanctions on their country a “breach” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and a group of Western powers.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, warned Thursday on Iranian state television that Iran has a list of 16 measures to take against the United States of America, including steps to “improve” Iran’s armed forces.

He said Iran will avoid “getting entangled in U.S. policies,” but will come up with a “smart” reaction to the sanctions

The U.S. sanctions impose penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, enforce an arms embargo and apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

In remarks aimed at Pres. Donald J. Trump earlier this month, Rouhani issued a warning for anyone looking to discard the 2015 deal, stating during a swearing-in ceremony to launch his second term, “Those who intend to tear down the deal should know that they are tearing down their political life.”

He has also said that Tehran needs “no one’s permission” to build missiles.

“The strengthening of the capability of the Iranian armed forces is only for defending the country and we will ask no one’s permission to build up the armed forces, and to build missiles and aircraft,” he said.

President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 deal made by Barrack Obama. According to President Trump, the Iran deal was negotiated by an “incompetent” Obama administration. Trump, while on the campaign trail in 2016, called the deal the “worst deal ever made.” Trump would often say he would end the deal immediately if elected president, and to come up with a better plan for discouraging Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

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