Iran has no plan to increase the range of its missiles, the country’s semi-official Tasnim news agency has reported.
The Tuesday report quoted the chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, as saying: “We have the scientific ability to increase our missile ranges, but it is not our current policy.”
Gen. Jafari added that most of Iran’s enemies are already situated within a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) radius of Iran.
In 2017, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered limits on the country’s ballistic missile program to 2,000 kilometers.
This range would encompass much of the Middle East, including Israel and American bases in the region. However, such limits come as Iran routinely says its ballistic missile program is only for defensive purposes against regional adversaries.
Although there are no restrictions in place on the range of Iranian missiles, US President Donald Trump had insisted that limitations be placed on Tehran’s missile program as a prerequisite for Washington remaining in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He ultimately pulled out of it on May 12.
The New York Times reported last month that weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could be used to attack the United States.
Satellite images appeared to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.
The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well. Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.
Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.
Iranian leaders have previously said they are not working on missiles with a range beyond the Middle East. The Islamic Republic has so far produced a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), putting all of Israel in range as well as much of Eastern Europe.
The 2015 nuclear deal saw heavy sanctions lifted on Iran in return for Tehran freezing much of its nuclear program. Having pulled out of the deal in May, the US has vowed to apply the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which affirmed the Iran nuclear deal, called on Iran to refrain from developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development doesn’t violate the agreement.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April presented a vast archive of Iranian documents, obtained by the Mossad spy agency, which he said detailed Iranian efforts and research programs specifically aimed at producing an atomic weapon.
Netanyahu said at the time the evidence proved Iran had lied about its nuclear ambitions. In announcing his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, Trump cited the Israeli intelligence haul as among the reasons for his decision.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.