US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 1 condemned Iran for testing what he claimed was a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and hitting parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East.
Pompeo said the test was a violation “of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons”. However, as on previous occasions when the US has hit out at Iran for ballistic missile tests, there was no indication that the tested missile was pointing towards the design of a future missile that would be capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
Iran—like France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia—is still signed up to the nuclear deal which, in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions, demands the Islamic Republic comply with measures drawn up to prevent it taking a path to the development of a nuclear weapon. The UN’s atomic watchdog says Iran remains in full compliance with the accord. However, the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May, in favour of reintroducing heavy sanctions designed to strangle Iran’s economy to pressure Tehran to give up what the Trump administration contends are "malign activities" such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.
Tehran reacted to Pompeo’s statement by saying that its missile programme is entirely defensive in nature and not in breach of UN resolutions.
“Interesting and ironic”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told official government news agency IRNA: "It is interesting and ironic that you [the US] cite a resolution that you have not only breached through your unilateral and unlawful withdrawal from the [nuclear] accord but that you also encourage others to breach or even threaten to punish and sanction them if they carry it [the deal] out."
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was reported by news agencies as telling a December 1 security forum in California that while the strategic threat from Iran was less significant globally than the one from North Korea, it was regionally significant. "And it could grow beyond that if it's not dealt with," Mattis said.
The Hill on November 29 reported the Trump administration as saying military action against Iran could be possible should US sanctions against the country fail to curb Tehran from delivering weapons to hostile groups in the Middle East.
"We have been very clear with the Iranian regime that we will not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened. I think they understand that. I think they understand that very clearly," Brian Hook, the State Department special representative on Iran, was quoted as saying.
"I think right now, while we have the military option on the table, our preference is to use all of the tools that are at our disposal diplomatically," he added.
Separately, Iran’s navy on December 1 launched a domestically made destroyer, which state media said has radar-evading stealth properties.
In a ceremony broadcast live on state television, the Sahand destroyer—which can sustain voyages lasting five months without resupply—joined Iran’s regular navy at a base in Bandar Abbas on the Gulf.
The ship has a flight deck for helicopters, torpedo launchers, anti-aircraft and anti-ship guns, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles and electronic warfare capabilities, the state TV report said.
The Sahand may be among warships that Iran plans to send on a mission to Venezuela soon, Rear-Admiral Touraj Hassani Moqaddam, told the semi-official news agency Mehr.
“Among our plans in the near future is to send two or three vessels with special helicopters to Venezuela in South America on a mission that could last five months,” he said.
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