Iran beefs up missile program as U.S. targets rocket research
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A top Iranian military commander has threatened to launch ballistic missile attacks on U.S. forces in the region amid a public effort by the Islamic Republic to show off its advanced missile capabilities, according to U.S. officials and regional reports.
Iranian leaders disclosed that their advanced ballistic missile technology, which could be used as part of a nuclear weapons program, is sophisticated enough to strike U.S. forces up to nearly 1,300 miles, or 2,000 kilometers, away, which encompasses all U.S. bases in the region.
The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, announced on Tuesday that Iranian missiles can already “cover all U.S. bases in the region” and that Tehran has the capability to increase its missile power even further.
“Based on the policies specified by the Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei], the range of our missiles is limited to 2,000km, but we have the capability to increase the range,” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said following an announcement by the country’s supreme leader that Iranian ballistic missile technology would be capped at this distance for the short term.
While pro-Iran activists cheered the announcement as a sign of moderation on Iran’s part, U.S officials and experts told the Washington Free Beacon that the distance cap on these missiles is effectively meaningless since the country’s current military technology is capable of striking U.S. forces, a position emphasized by Iranian military leaders.
“At present it [this distance] is sufficient because the Americans are in a 2,000 km radius from our country and their attacks will be responded,” Jafari was quoted as saying in Iran’s state-controlled press outlets.
U.S. military and administration officials told the Free Beacon the United States is cementing multiple plans to counter Iran’s ballistic missile threat and will continue to pursue these efforts despite Iranian threats of military violence.
“We have consistently maintained that we will work with our allies to change Iran’s malign and destabilizing activities,” one senior military official told the Free Beacon.
This includes the development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology, as well as Iran’s support for terrorism and Islamic extremism, according to Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesperson.
The U.S. defense apparatus also is working to counter Iran’s support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as well as the Islamic Republic’s “unrelenting hostility to Israel,” according to Rankine-Galloway.
U.S. defense officials remain concerned about Iran’s harassment of U.S. naval vessels in the region, “especially in the strategically vital Arabian Gulf,” according to the military official.
“In support of this strategy, DoD is reviewing the entire breadth of our security cooperation activities, force posture, and plans,” Rankine-Galloway said. “We are identifying new areas where we will work with allies to put pressure on the Iranian regime, neutralize its destabilizing influences, and constrain its aggressive power projection, particularly its support for terrorist groups and militants.”
A State Department official told the Free Beacon that Iran’s continued pursuit of ballistic missile technology violates United Nations Resolution 2231, which codifies the nuclear agreement and includes bans on Tehran’s development of such equipment.
“As we have said before, the Iranian regime’s program to develop ballistic missiles continues to be in defiance of UNSCR 2231 and has a destabilizing impact in the region,” the official said. “We call on the Iranian regime not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities.”
Congressional critics of the Iran deal continue to maintain the Obama administration misled lawmakers about the nature of restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, guaranteeing during negotiations over the landmark agreement that such activity would be fully halted.
“While we were told by Obama administration officials that the nuclear deal would lead to improved Iranian behavior, Iran’s behavior since reaping the massive amount of front-loaded financial benefits has only seemed to get worse,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee, told the Free Beacon.
“Recent threats about missile attacks demonstrate the need for Congress to proceed with additional secondary sanctions,” DeSantis said. “The present course is untenable and Iran’s threatening behavior is likely to increase in frequency.”
Iranian leaders continue to maintain the United States is in violation of the nuclear accord and have emphasized repeatedly that the deal is not open to renegotiation on any front.
“Iran doesn’t want, under any conditions, to negotiate with anyone on any paragraphs of the nuclear deal,” Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
New congressional efforts to sanction Iran for a range of activities, including its ballistic missile buildup, have been met with threats.
IRGC Commander Jafari vowed last month that any new effort to sanction Tehran would be viewed as a “U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal.”
“If the U.S. new sanctions act comes into action, the country [the U.S.] should transfer its regional bases to 2,000 km away, that is as far as the range of Iranian missiles,” Jafari said, emphasizing the threat to strike U.S. assets.
In Tuesday remarks, Jafari warned that new sanctions “will increase the Iranian nation’s determination to increase its defense and missile power and they [America] will see an increase in the range and precision-striking power of missiles.”
Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran expert and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that those cheering Iran’s announcement that it is capping the distance its missiles can travel are being disingenuous, given that Iran can still hit any U.S. base in the region.
“The IRGC commander says at this time the current range is enough,” Ghasseminejad said. “He clarifies it by saying that there are enough Americans to target inside the 2000 km range that Iran does not need to go beyond it at this point.”
Any edict by Iran’s Supreme Leader “can easily change,” Ghasseminejad noted.
“Iran is working on its satellite program which is a cover to develop its ICBM program,” he added. “So at the same time that Iran is developing its intercontinental ballistic missile, the head of the terrorist organization, the IRGC, assures the world that Iran has no plan to go beyond 2000 km range even though it has the technical capability.”
“How gullible should one be to buy such assurance?” Ghasseminejad asked, noting that the amplified rhetoric from Iran is a sign the threat of new sanctions is a concern for Tehran.