Iran conducts new missile tests defying US sanctions
Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile tests Tuesday in an exercise to demonstrate “deterrent power,” a move that comes in defiance of US sanctions imposed over its missile programme in January.
The announcement by the official IRNA news agency said the tests showed the country’s “all-out readiness to confront threats” against its territorial integrity.
State television a short time after showed still images of the armaments used in what it described as a military drill in which “ballistic missiles were fired from silos” in different parts of the country.
The United States imposed new sanctions over Iran’s missile programme in January almost immediately after separate sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear activities had been lifted under a landmark deal with world powers.
The latest tests, called “The Power of Velayat”, a reference to the religious doctrine of the Islamic republic’s leadership, were undertaken by the Revolutionary Guards and Aerospace Forces, IRNA reported.
Sepah News, the Guards’ official media service, carried a statement confirming the missile tests, which come less than two weeks after elections in Iran delivered gains to politicians aligned with Hassan Rouhani, the country’s moderate president.
The Revolutionary Guards report to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Rouhani, and their influence dwarfs that of the army and other armed forces.
Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a means for Iran’s military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will have no impact on its plans, which is says are for domestic defence only.
Major General Ali Jafari, the Guards’ top commander, and Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, were present when the exercise took place, IRNA reported.
Iran’s ballistic missile programme has been contentious since the nuclear deal with the United States and five other powers was struck in Vienna on July 14 last year.
– ‘Destabilising activities’ –
On October 11, Tehran conducted the first of two ballistic missile tests which angered Washington. State television weeks later aired unprecedented footage of underground missile storage bunkers.
A UN panel said in December that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Tehran has always denied seeking an atomic weapon and argues that its missiles would never be designed to, nor ever carry, the bomb.
The nuclear deal was heralded by moderates such as Rouhani, who staked his reputation on the negotiations, but hardliners in Tehran said it damaged national interests.
Announcing the new missile sanctions on January 17, one day after the nuclear deal was finally implemented, US President Barack Obama said “profound differences” with Tehran remained over its “destabilising activities”.
Five Iranians and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to an American blacklist, the US Treasury Department announced.
The White House had first threatened to impose the measures in December but withdrew them after Rouhani hit out at both their timing and intent. Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement which was to be finalised weeks later.
Asked before the missile sanctions were announced on January 17 how Iran would react to fresh measures against it, Rouhani said: “Any action will be met by a reaction.”
Those measures came after four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, left Tehran following their release in a prisoner swap with the United States.
That exchange was announced on the same day the nuclear deal was implemented.