In what is being seen as a challenge to US President Donald Trump, Iran tested a 4,000 kilometer range (2,500 miles) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, US officials said Monday.
Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama Administration and other P5+1 countries agreed with Iran in 2015.
The missile test, which Fox News reported took place on Sunday, was unsuccessful; the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile flew 600 miles and then exploded, it said, citing US officials. Israel’s Channel 10 television said the failed test actually took place about 10 days ago. It said the Iranians were plainly “testing Trump,” who last week, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, said the two would consult closely to address “the threats posed by Iran.”
Fox said the missile was launched from Semnan, outside Tehran, and that the failure involved “a reentry vehicle.” It noted that Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier Gen. Hossein Dehqhan said four months ago that Iran would start producing the missile.
Channel 10 said the Khorramshahr is a Russian-developed missile originally intended for submarine launch that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It said North Korea has successfully tested it from a ground launch.
Netanyahu, who is set to meet Trump at the White House next month, said he would urge a resumption of sanctions against Iran for missile testing, and “additional sanctions against [Iranian] terrorism.” He would also discuss with Trump the “handling of this whole failed nuclear accord.”
The nuclear deal, intended to thwart Iran’s rogue nuclear program and championed by President Barack Obama as a “game-changer,” has been consistently castigated by Netanyahu as “a bad deal” that actually paves the way for an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
Asked about the missile test, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said they were looking into the report.
“We’re aware that Iran fired that missile. We’re looking into the exact nature of it,” Spicer said.
UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Iran argues that because the nuke deal forbids them from pursuing a nuclear weapon, no ballistic missile is capable of carrying atomic arms that don’t exist and thus tests of them are not out of bounds.
News of the test came a day after Trump committed to enforcing the Iranian nuclear deal, despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord that he has repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.
In a Sunday phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud, the president pledged to “rigorously enforc[e] the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referring to the deal’s formal name, according to a White House readout of the conversation.
As a candidate, Trump often sent mixed signals about how he would handle the Iranian nuclear threat if he was elected. In his address at last year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, he vowed both to rip up the pact and enforce it.
“My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said at the conference in March 2016, calling the controversial agreement signed between the P5+1 world powers and Tehran “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.” Later in the speech he called to “at the very least” implement the deal that lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program.
Since Trump’s election in November, his advisers have signaled that he would not unilaterally walk away from the agreement unless Tehran violated its terms.
Along with Israel, Saudi Arabia has been one of the Middle Eastern countries most opposed to the nuclear deal.
During their call on Sunday, Trump and King Salman also committed to “address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Saudi Arabia strategic alliance.