Iran Commander Tells U.S. 'Take a Lesson' From Military Drills Amid Nuclear Deal Standoff

The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is celebrating the service's most recent military drills, saying the U.S. and other enemies should take a "lesson" from the firepower on display.

IRGC commander Major General Hossein Salami told reporters Friday that "The Great Prophet" military exercises held this week in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan showcased the service's "authority, defense, resistance and aggression," according to the Mehr News Agency.

"The ground forces of the IRGC guarantee our security, independence, honor and dignity and they shone brightly in their latest war game," Salami said on the sidelines of the drill. "The enemy should take a lesson from the firepower showcased by the Iranian forces," he added, a reference to the U.S. and regional enemies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The IRGC and Iran's regular military have maintained a steady drumbeat of threats towards the U.S. and other adversaries in recent months, despite the election and inauguration of President Joe Biden and even while the civilian government led by President Hassan Rouhani seeks a revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal.

This week's drill included exercises by IRGC infantry, airborne commandos, special forces, armored divisions, artillery, missile and drone units, Mehr reported.

"The IRGC ground force's battle might is much more than what we see today, and in this exercise, we showed only a small example of this power," Salami told reporters. "The country's territorial integrity will not be neglected even for a single moment."

The IRGC is sworn to defend the Iranian revolution and the theocratic regime. The IRGC has some 250,000 members and wields great influence across the Middle East, working closely with numerous proxy militias in the region while maintaining fearsome power within Iran. Former President Donald Trump designated the service a terrorist organization in 2019.

The IRGC's arsenal and regional operations are key grievances of JCPOA critics, and among the reasons that conservatives, American regional allies and Iranian dissidents are pressing Biden not to revive the deal.

JCPOA skeptics say the deal is flawed in failing to limit Iran's ballistic missile research program and its use of regional proxy militias. Both, they say, are as disruptive as Tehran's nuclear program.

Biden has sought to allay such concerns by framing the JCPOA as the foundation for a "longer and stronger" deal pulling in elements including ballistic missiles and local proxies. But Iran has repeatedly rebuffed any suggestion of a JCPOA renegotiation.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has said any discussions of Iran's missile capability must also include American arms sales to its regional allies. "Is the United States prepared to reduce hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons it is selling to our region?" he asked CNN during an interview broadcast last week.

"The United States has to accept what we agreed upon," Zarif added. "We decided not to agree on certain things, not because we neglected them, but because the United States and its allies were not prepared to do what was necessary."

Though Biden has expressed the desire to revive the JCPOA, he has refused to do so until Iran returns to full compliance with its restrictions. Iran, however, says it is incumbent on Biden to lift American sanctions and return to the deal before Tehran does the same.

IRGC chief Hossein Salami speaks in Tehran
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Major General Hossein Salami speaks at an event in Tehran on September 21, 2019. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty