Iran tests more missiles in defiance of US warning

AFP , Wednesday 9 Mar 2016

Iran Ballistic missiles
Ballistic missiles are launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by Farsnews on March 9, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

Iran fired two more long-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday as it continued military tests in defiance of US sanctions and fresh warnings from Washington.

Coming just weeks after the implementation of Iran's historic nuclear deal with world powers, this week's multiple missile tests were described by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards as a show of force in the face of US pressure.

After similar tests on Tuesday, Washington had warned it could raise the issue with the UN Security Council and take further action after US sanctions were imposed in connection with Iran's missile programme in January.

Wednesday's tests saw two Qadr-H and Qadr-F precision missiles fired from a site in the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran, hitting targets some 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) away in the southeastern Makran area, the Guards said.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace wing, said US efforts would have no impact on Iran's missile programme.

"The more our enemies increase the sanctions, the more intense the Guards' reaction" will be, the Tasnim news agency quoted him as saying.

The deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, said the tests were to demonstrate Iran's "defence and deterrent power".

"We have massive stockpiles of ballistic missiles waiting for orders and ready to hit targets at any moment from various points across the country," Salami said.

Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a way for Iran's military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will have no impact on its plans, which it says are for domestic defence only.

The hard-fought deal, which saw international sanctions lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear ambitions, did not extend to its missile programme.

Previous UN resolutions have aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, although Tehran has always denied seeking the capability.

The US sanctions imposed in January saw five Iranians and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China added to an American blacklist.

State Department spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday said that if the latest missile tests were confirmed "then we'll have every intention of raising the matter to the UN Security Council".

He also warned that the United States could take unilateral action "to counter threats from Iran's missile programme", but made clear the tests were in no way connected with the nuclear deal.

General Lloyd Austin, the head of US forces in the Middle East, told US lawmakers on Tuesday that Iran remained a serious cause of concern.

"A number of things lead me to believe, personally, that their behaviour has not changed course yet," Austin said.

This week's series of tests have included short-, medium- and long-range precision guided missiles, with ranges of 300 kilometres, 500 kilometres, 800 kilometres and 2,000 kilometres, state media reported.

"The reason we have designed these missiles with such a range -- 2,000 kilometres -- is to be able to hit our remote enemies, the Zionist regime," Hajizadeh said, referring to Israel.

"But there is no need to fire missiles to destroy the Zionist regime as it will gradually collapse. Our main enemy is the US," he said.

President Hassan Rouhani, a cleric close to moderates, pursued the nuclear deal in a bid to end Iran's international isolation.

Less than two weeks ago, his moderate and reformist allies scored key gains against conservatives and hardliners in elections.

But 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.

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