US warns of ‘serious threat’ after Iran unveils new ballistic missile

State Department spokesman asserts that administration using variety of tools, including sanctions, to counter further advancement of Tehran’s ballistic missile program

Illustrative: This frame grab from video shows the launching of underground ballistic missiles by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during a military exercise on July 29, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)
Illustrative: This frame grab from video shows the launching of underground ballistic missiles by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard during a military exercise on July 29, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday called Iran’s missile program a “serious threat” after the clerical state unveiled a new model with its longest range to date.

“Iran’s development, and proliferation of, ballistic missiles poses a serious threat to regional and international security and remains a significant non-proliferation challenge,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters during a briefing.

“We continue to use a variety of non-proliferation tools, including sanctions, to counter the further advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its ability to proliferate missiles and related technology to others,” he added.

The Kheibar missile will have a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) — long enough to hit areas of Israel — and be able to carry warheads weighing over one ton, Iran’s defense ministry said.

The unveiling came as talks remain stalled on restoring a nuclear deal in which Iran promised to scale back its activities in return for sanctions relief.

The 2015 agreement, trashed by former US president Donald Trump and criticized by Israel, did not directly account for Iran’s missile program.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has largely given up on thoughts of sanctions relief under a deal, especially after Iran was swept by major protests against the religious leadership.

“An Iran with a nuclear weapon would likely act even more provocatively, and that’s why we are so committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Miller said.

Its name references the ancient town of Khaybar — located in modern-day Saudi Arabia — known for a decisive 7th-century battle in which the army of Prophet Muhammad defeated its thousands of Jewish residents.

According to state media, the speed of the high-mobility tactical missile “can reach Mach 16 outside the atmosphere and Mach 8 inside the atmosphere.”

On Tuesday, Israel’s top military commander Herzi Halevi cautioned that Iran was drawing close to the point when Israel would be forced to act against its nuclear program.

“Iran has made more progress in uranium enrichment than ever before. We are also closely examining other aspects of the [Iranians’] path to nuclear capability,” Herzi said at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya.

“Without going into details, there are possible negative developments on the horizon that could prompt action,” Halevi said.

Israel sees Iran as an existential threat and has repeatedly said it will act alone if necessary to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons, including a strike on its facilities.

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