Iran said Sunday that its missile program is defensive and not in violation of UN resolutions, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Islamic state of testing a medium-range ballistic missile capable of “carrying multiple warheads,” which he said could strike “anywhere” in the Middle East and even parts of Europe.
“Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature… There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran,” the official state news agency IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi as saying in response to Pompeo’s statement, the Reuters news agency reported.
Qasemi neither confirmed nor denied that Iran had carried out the alleged test.
“It is… ironic that you 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 accord] out,” Qasemi said, addressing Pompeo directly.
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the missile test violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program and bans Iranian tests of nuclear-capable ballistic weapons.
He did not specify when the test took place, but said it had “just” occurred.
“As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence,” Pompeo said.
He also called on Iran to “cease immediately all activities” related to the development of ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.
The statement from Pompeo came just days after a top Iranian general claimed that US military personnel and assets in the Middle East are within range of his country’s missiles.
.@SecPompeo: Iranian regime just test-fired a medium range ballistic missile capable of striking Europe & the Middle East. This violates #UNSC Res. 2231. #Iran’s missile testing & proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation if we fail to restore deterrence. pic.twitter.com/ZEKPpHI6Ij
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 1, 2018
Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the air division for the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said improvements to Iran’s missile arsenal had put US bases in Qatar, the UAE, and Afghanistan within reach, as well as US aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
“They are within our reach and we can hit them if the [Americans] make a move,” he said, according to a
translation of his remarks carried by Reuters.
Hajizadeh said the missiles had been outfitted with improved precision capabilities, making it possible to hit targets over 500 kilometers away to within 30 meters accuracy.
In September, Iran’s defense ministry said it planned to improve the capabilities of its ballistic and cruise missiles.
In 2017, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered limits on the reach of the country’s ballistic missile program to 2,000 kilometers.
That range would encompass much of the Middle East, including Israel and American bases in the region.
However, such limits come as Iran routinely says its ballistic missile program is only for defensive purposes against regional adversaries.
Although there are no restrictions in place on the range of Iranian missiles, US President Donald Trump had insisted that limitations be placed on Tehran’s missile program as a prerequisite for Washington remaining in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
He ultimately pulled out of it on May 12.
The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well.
Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.
Tehran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.
It has also maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development does not violate the agreement.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented evidence which he says details Iranian efforts and research programs specifically aimed at producing atomic weapons.
In a Mossad operation, Israel earlier this year spirited out a trove of Iranian documentation from Tehran’s nuclear weapons archive, which Netanyahu said proved conclusively that Iran is lying when it says it has not been working toward a nuclear weapons arsenal.