EghtesadOnline: Despite decades of sanctions, Iran has succeeded in developing its missile arsenal, which is larger than that of any other Middle Eastern country, a Pentagon study said on Tuesday.
"Iran has an extensive missile development program, and the size and sophistication of its missile force continues to grow despite decades of … efforts aimed at curbing its advancement," the US Defense Intelligence Agency said, AFP reported.
The study said Iran considered missiles to be a strategic necessity due to the limitations of its air force, according to Financial Tribune.
"Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries in the region—particularly the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia—from attacking Iran," the report said.
Iran has "the largest missile force in the Middle East", the report said. A US intelligence official said on condition of anonymity that the assessment included the Israeli regime.
The report said Iran had developed a series of missiles that could strike at a distance of 2,000 kilometers.
Iran in 2017 showcased the 2,000-kilometer-range Khorramshahr missile, which can carry multiple warheads.
But the Pentagon study said Iran was spending slightly less on its military, with $20.7 billion budgeted in 2017.
Iran's economy has come under growing pressure since US President Donald Trump last year withdrew from the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and reimposed sweeping sanctions.
Christian Saunders, an expert on Iran at the Defense Intelligence Agency, underscored the impact of the expected lifting of an arms embargo on Iran in October 2020.
The Islamic Republic has faced UN-mandated sanctions on importing most weapons since 2006, but the embargo is set to expire five years after the implementation of the nuclear deal.
The accord, which Iran reached in 2015 with former US president Barack Obama's administration as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, is on life support after Trump left it and as Tehran takes steps to scale down compliance as a protest over continued sanctions.
"With the embargo ending, we expect them to go after fighters—their current air force is dated—and also main battle tanks" which the Iranians either "haven't built or haven't been able to acquire for years," Saunders told reporters.
He expected that Iran would seek to procure weapons from Russia and China.
Iran argues that it must keep up its defenses, pointing to western support for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s and Israel's nuclear arsenal.