Iran reportedly test-fired another missile on Wednesday, just days after a series of warnings from the Trump administration that it was “on notice” for previous ballistic missile tests and that a military response to such actions was under consideration.
According to a Fox News report, a US official said the test on Wednesday was of a short-range surface-to-air missile, called Mersad, which impacted 56 kilometers (35 miles) away.
The test came on the same day US officials told Reuters that the White House was considering a proposal that could lead to naming Iran’s most powerful military and political institution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a terrorist organization.
The proposal is reportedly one of many being weighed as part of an overall Iran policy review, amid a tougher line on Tehran since the Trump administration came into office.
On Friday, Washington slapped sanctions on more than two dozen people and companies from the Persian Gulf to China, in response to Iran test-firing late last month a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, as well as a home-made cruise missile with the same capabilities, acts which prompted an emergency UN Security Council session and an Israeli demand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reimpose sanctions.
Trump said last Thursday that “nothing is off the table,” when it came to a potential military response as House and Senate Republicans backed a more hard-line approach. Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, had in a press conference last week said Iran was “officially on notice” following the missiles tests, which the White House contends violate a UN Security Council resolution proscribing missiles that could carry a nuclear device.
UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the landmark nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015, calls on Tehran “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 its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.
Over the weekend, US Defense Secretary James Mattis called Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” while Flynn further warned that Washington would no longer turn a blind eye to Tehran’s “hostile and belligerent actions.”
Drawing a more stark line in the sand, US Vice President Mike Pence on Friday warned Tehran “not to test the resolve” of the Trump administration.
The charged rhetoric has raised questions over whether the US will abandon commitments it made under the 2015 nuclear deal that obliged Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for relief from US and international sanctions.
Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the accord, and officials said Friday’s measures would not be the last.
“Iran is playing with fire — they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” Trump tweeted on February 3.
Trump last Friday also asserted Tehran was “emboldened” by the 2015 agreement to act confrontationally on the world stage.
Iran, for its part, has dismissed the warnings and reacted furiously to the new sanctions, staging a show of defiance by deploying missiles for a Revolutionary Guards exercise on Saturday. The Guards said the maneuvers were aimed at demonstrating their “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington.
On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the US not to threaten Iran with sanctions, saying Trump’s brow-beating would see a response in the coming days.
“Trump says fear me! No. The Iranian nation will respond to your comments with a demonstration on the 10th of February,” Khamenei said in a speech to military officers in Tehran on Tuesday. “They will show others what kind of stance the nation of Iran takes when threatened,” he said.
The leader also ridiculed the idea of being grateful to former president Barack Obama, saying he was the one who placed “paralyzing sanctions” on Iran.
“The new US president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?!” Khamenei posted on his website. “Should we thank him for [creating] ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation.”
Khamenei also told the officers that Trump had revealed the true colors of the US.
“We are thankful to this gentleman… he showed the real face of America,” Khamenei said.
“What we have said for more than 30 years — that there is political, economic, moral and social corruption in the ruling system of the US — this gentleman came and brought it out into the open in the election and after the election.”
A handful of top Iranian military officials have also threatened military action — including against Israel — if the US were to strike Iran.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that with Trump in the White House, Tehran faced “difficult days ahead” regarding its nuclear deal with Washington and other major powers, which Trump has indicated he may seek to alter.
“I believe Trump may try to renegotiate” the deal, but “clearly, neither Iran, nor the Europeans or the international community, will accept new negotiations,” Zarif told Ettelaat, an Iranian newspaper, in an interview published Tuesday.
Trump is slated to meet with Netanyahu next week and Iran is expected to be at the top of the agenda.
AFP contributed to this report