DUBAI: Iran successfully test-launched a ballistic missile with a potential 2,000km range on Thursday, state media said, two days after the chief of Israel’s armed forces raised the prospect of “action” against Tehran over its nuclear programme.
Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, says its weapons are capable of reaching the bases of arch-foes Israel and the United States in the region.
Despite US and European opposition, the Islamic Republic has said it will further develop its “defensive” missile programme.
“Our message to Iran’s enemies is that we will defend the country and its achievements. Our message to our friends is that we want to help regional stability,” Iranian Defence Minister Mohammadreza Ashtiani said.
France says test worrying in light of nuclear escalation
State TV broadcast a few seconds of footage of what it said was the launch of an upgraded version of Iran’s Khorramshahr 4 ballistic missile with a range of 2,000km and able to carry a 1,500kg warhead.
“The domestically build Kheibar missile’s outstanding features include quick preparation and launch time, which makes it a tactical weapon in addition to a strategic one,” it said.
On Tuesday, the top Israeli general mooted possible military action against Iran as efforts by six world powers to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since last September, amid growing Western fears about Tehran’s accelerating nuclear advances.
France accused Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal after ballistic missile test, which Paris said was worrying given “uninterrupted escalation” of Tehran’s nuclear programme.
“These activities are all the more worrying in the context of the continuing escalation of Iran’s nuclear programme”, French foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre told reporters at a daily briefing.
Legendre’s reference to the escalation of Iran’s nuclear programme comes just 10 days before the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors meets in Vienna.
“We expect Iran to respect its international obligations ... and carry out concrete and tangible progress before the Board of Governors meeting,” Legendre said.
“Iran’s activities pose serious and increased non-proliferation risks without any credible civilian justification,” she said.
UN Security Council resolution 2231 calls on Iran not to conduct any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, but the language is ambiguous, leaving it open to interpretation.
Western officials say that although the launches go against 2231, they are not a violation of the core nuclear agreement between Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Western powers are particularly concerned because UN Security Council restrictions on missiles and related technologies last until October 2023 after which Iran is free to pursue its ballistic missile activity.
Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognise, sees Iran as an existential threat. Iran says its ballistic missiles are an important deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States, Israel and other potential regional adversaries. An Israeli military spokesperson said the military does not comment on such matters.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023
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