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Amid Israeli threats, Iran touts successful test of anti-missile defense system

General says Tehran is ‘perfectly prepared to protect sensitive and vital installations’ across the country

This photo released Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, by the Iranian Army, shows a missile being fired during a military drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)
This photo released Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, by the Iranian Army, shows a missile being fired during a military drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

TEHRAN — The Iranian military said Wednesday it had successfully tested anti-missile defenses for “sensitive” sites during war games in central Iran, after Israeli and US warnings over its nuclear program.

“The country’s air defenses are perfectly prepared to protect sensitive and vital installations through a multi-layered defense system,” said General Amir-Qader Rahimzadeh, commander of Hazrat Khatam al-Anbiya airbase at Semnan, quoted by the Fars news agency.

The exercises, which began on Tuesday, combined the army’s “Majid” defense system with the “Dezful” system of the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps to destroy incoming cruise missiles. Iran’s central region is home to the Natanz enrichment plant and other nuclear sites.

The war games there came ahead of a visit to Iran expected on Thursday by a European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving a troubled nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers including the United States.

“A solid and multi-layered defense against cruise missile attacks was one of the objectives of the joint air defense exercises that were carried out successfully,” Rahimzadeh said.

This photo released Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, by the Iranian Army, shows a missile being fired during a military drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

These air defense systems are from now on “deployed all over the country,” said the head of the aerospace branch of the Guard Corps, Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh. “We didn’t have this capability 15 years ago. We depended on foreign equipment for radar and ground-to-air systems,” he said.

Radars and electronic surveillance systems were also deployed in the operations, state news agency IRNA said.

EU envoy Enrique Mora is set to visit Iran with mounting pressure from European countries, as well as from the Biden administration, for a swift resumption of negotiations on a US return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran’s foreign ministry announced Mora’s mission to the country.

Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora, addresses the media in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 20, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program, but has been on life support since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out and reimposed crippling sanctions.

Iran has said repeatedly that it is ready to resume talks “soon.”

Rob Malley, the US negotiator who led indirect talks with Iran earlier this year, said in Washington on Wednesday that Biden’s administration preferred a return to the 2015 deal.

But it was possible Tehran will “choose a different path,” and the US is working with regional allies on a Plan B, he said.

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