Iran said to test ballistic missile for first time in more than a year

US officials say Fateh-110 was fired during a military exercise last weekend, held as Trump reintroduced economic sanctions on Tehran

Illustrative: A Fateh-110 ballistic missile, displayed at an Iranian armed forces parade in 2012. ( Commons)
Illustrative: A Fateh-110 ballistic missile, displayed at an Iranian armed forces parade in 2012. ( Commons)

Iran carried out a ballistic missile test last week for the first time in 2018, US officials were quoted saying late on Friday.

The test of the Iranian Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missile was carried out at the Strait of Hormuz during a naval exercise in which at least 50 small ships took part, Fox News reported. According to the report, the missiles flew “shore to shore” for more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) over the Strait of Hormuz to a site in the desert.

While the US military knew of Iran’s naval activity in the region, the missile test detected by US spy satellites had not been previously reported.

The missile launch test is the first known test of the Fateh-110 in over a year. Last time such a missile was launched by Iran was in March, 2017.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps announced last weekend it had completed a “successful” naval exercise in the Persian Gulf, which was seen in the West as a provocation in response to the US reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

Illustrative: The Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares to leave Iran’s waters at the Strait of Hormuz, in this photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad)

The timing was unusual, as the exercise appeared to be similar in scale and nature to an annual drill that ordinarily takes places later in the year, in the autumn.

The vessels taking part in the exercise were mostly small attack boats, and there were no interactions reported with US ships in the strait, one of the world’s most important oil shipping lanes.

In a statement regarding the drill, Captain Bill Urban, the US military’s Central Command spokesman, said the US was “aware of an increase” in Iranian naval operations in the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

“We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways,” Urban said.

The Fateh-110 test launch came in the same week as US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to restore nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran, increasing economic pressure on the country. Trump withdrew from the landmark P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran in May, paving the way for sanctions to be reimposed.

Other signatories of the 2015 JCPOA opposed the America withdrawal from the landmark pact, and Russia and China criticized the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, arguing that Tehran had kept its part of the deal.

Iranian leaders have threatened several times in recent weeks to close the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for the renewal of sanctions.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transit the Strait of Hormuz (photo credit: CC BY Official U.S. Navy Imagery)
Illustrative: The guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transit the Strait of Hormuz (CC-BY SA 3.0/Official US Navy Imagery)

US officials in recent years have accused both the regular Iranian navy and the IRGC of routinely harassing American warships in the Gulf.

But so far this year, there have been no such incidents.

The IRGC is a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In January 2016, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters.

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