Tehran accuses Israel of testing ‘a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran’

Israel’s Defense Ministry had earlier confirmed rocket propulsion test, gave no details; accusation comes days after Iran slammed for working on nuclear-capable missiles

Trails left behind by the launch of a rocket from a base in central Israel as part of a test on December 6, 2019. (Courtesy)
Trails left behind by the launch of a rocket from a base in central Israel as part of a test on December 6, 2019. (Courtesy)

Tehran on Friday accused Israel of testing a nuclear-capable missile “aimed at Iran,” after the Defense Ministry carried out a launch of what it described as a “test of a rocket propulsion system.”

“Israel today tested a nuke-missile, aimed at Iran,” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif was likely speaking figuratively as Israel usually test fires missiles to the West over the Mediterranean and not towards Iran in the East.

“E3 & US never complain about the only nuclear arsenal in West Asia — armed with missiles actually DESIGNED to be capable of carrying nukes — but has fits of apoplexy over our conventional & defensive ones,” he said.

His comments come a day after France, Germany and the United Kingdom said “Iran’s developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles” go against a UN Security Council resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to such missiles.

The Israeli Defense Ministry gave few details on the missile test conducted Friday morning.

“The defense establishment conducted a launch test a few minutes ago of a rocket propulsion system from a base in the center of the country,” the ministry said.

“The test was scheduled in advance and was carried out as planned.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd-L) speaks with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono (not pictured) during their meeting at a hotel in Yokohama, Japan, on August 27, 2019. (Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool/AFP)

The Defense Ministry refused to comment on the nature of the rocket being tested, leading to speculation that it was a ballistic missile.

Residents of the area reported seeing a white trail left behind by the rocket.

Israel does not publicly acknowledge having ballistic missiles in its arsenals, though according to foreign reports, the Jewish state possesses a nuclear-capable variety known as the Jericho that has a multi-stage engine, a 5,000-kilometer range and is capable of carrying a 1,000-kilogram warhead.

These types of tests are conducted as part of the development of several different types of projectiles, from offensive ballistic missiles to defensive interceptors and satellite launchers. Though in cases of interceptors and satellite launchers, the Defense Ministry generally reveals additional details about the nature of the test.

While foreign sources have estimated Israel has an arsenal of dozens to hundreds of nuclear weapons, the Jewish state has neither publicly confirmed nor denied such reports in keeping with its policy of so-called nuclear ambiguity.

The rocket test required incoming flights en route to Ben Gurion Airport to be temporarily diverted.

The three European nations urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter circulated Wednesday to inform the council in his next report that Iran’s ballistic missile activity is “inconsistent” with the call in a council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The letter cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant “equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle.” It says: “The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”

A Shahab-3 surface-to-surface missile is on display next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at an exhibition by Iran’s army and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard celebrating ‘Sacred Defense Week’ marking the 39th anniversary of the start of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in downtown Tehran, Iran, September 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Europeans noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program concluded “that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead.”

Officials in the Trump administration also have said Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, something the Iranians deny.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. But it is still supported by the five other parties — France, Britain, Russia and China, which are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany, which is currently serving a two-year term on the council.

The letter says “France, Germany and the United Kingdom assert once again our firm conclusion that Iran’s development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and related technologies is inconsistent” with the missile provision in the council resolution.

That provision urges Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But it does not require Tehran to halt such activity, and the Iranian government insists all its missile activities are legal and not nuclear-related.

The Security Council has scheduled a Dec. 19 meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 resolution on the Iran nuclear deal.

During last year’s meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the council to again ban Iranian ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and to maintain an arms embargo that is scheduled to be lifted in 2020 under the nuclear deal.

AP contributed to this report

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