Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday called an Iranian test of a missile that could reach Israel a “provocation” to the United States and a threat to the entire free world.
Earlier in the day, Iran said it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile, in defiance of warnings from Washington that it is ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.
“The ballistic missile that was fired by Iran is not only a a provocation and a slap in the face for the United States and its allies — and an attempt to test them — but also further proof of the Iranian ambitions to become a world power and threaten countries in the Middle East and all the countries of the free world,” Liberman said in a statement.
“Imagine what would happen if Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. That is what it is striving for. We cannot allow it to happen,” Liberman said.
Iranian State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday. It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone.
— Press TV (@PressTV) September 23, 2017
The broadcaster gave no date for the test, although officials had said on Friday that it would be tested “soon.”
“As long as some speak in the language of threats, the strengthening of the country’s defense capabilities will continue and Iran will not seek permission from any country for producing various kinds of missile,” Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami said in a statement Saturday.
Revolutionary Guards aerospace chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying on Friday, when the missile was unveiled, that “the Khoramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads.”
Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry conventional warheads only and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometers, although commanders say they have the technology to go further.
That makes them only medium-range but still sufficient to reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap and/or amend the agreement over the issue, saying that Iran’s missile program could give it the technical know-how for a delivery system for a nuclear warhead when a sunset clause in the deal expires in 2025.
He is due to report to Congress on October 15 on whether or not he believes Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. If he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement. Trump said on Wednesday he had made his decision, but was not yet ready to reveal it.
At the UN on Tuesday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly condemned the Iran nuclear deal, warning that the accord will pave the way for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons if it is not scrapped or altered.
After praising Donald Trump’s address earlier in the day from the same podium, in which the US president called the Islamic Republic a “murderous” regime and the nuclear deal an “embarrassment,” Netanyahu said the 2015 accord strengthened Iran’s nuclear program and posed a grave threat to the entire world.
“Imagine the danger of hundreds of nuclear weapons in the hands of a vast Iranian Islamist empire, with the missiles to deliver them anywhere on earth,” Netanyahu said.
On Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed that Iran would boost its ballistic missile capabilities despite US criticism.
“Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities which are necessary for deterrence,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television as Iran displayed the new missile at a military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
“We will strengthen not only our missiles but also our air, land and sea forces,” said Rouhani. “When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission.”
Criticism by the Trump administration of the 2015 nuclear deal has focused heavily on Tehran’s continuing missile program.
Tehran says that the missiles are entirely legitimate under the terms of the deal, as they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.