Dubai, Tehran: Iran reportedly test-fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on them, a show of force by the Islamic republic as US Vice-President Joe Biden visited Israel.
Such phrases have been emblazoned on missiles fired before by Iran, but this test comes as the country recently signed a nuclear deal with world powers, including America. Hardliners in Iran’s military have fired rockets and missiles despite US objections since the deal, as well as shown underground missile bases on state television. The launches followed the test-firing of several missiles on Tuesday as part of a major military exercise that the IRGC (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, par of Iran’s Armed Forces) says is intended to “show Iran’s deterrent power and ... ability to confront any threat”.
On Wednesday, the IRGC fired two Qadr missiles from northern Iran, which hit targets in the southeast of the country 1,400km away, Iranian agencies said. The nearest point in Iran is around 1,000km from Tel Aviv and occupied Jerusalem.
“The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000km is to be able to hit our enemy, the Zionist regime, from a safe distance,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA agency.
Israeli officials had no immediate response to the Iranian launches, which come as Israel hosts Biden for talks on regional issues. Last week, the allies concluded a joint missile defence drill in Israel.
The US State Department said it would raise Tuesday’s tests at the United Nations (UN) Security Council. The speaker of the US House of Representatives also said lawmakers would push for more unilateral sanctions.
Two months ago, Washington imposed sanctions against businesses and individuals linked to Iran’s missile programme over a test of the medium-range Emad missile carried out in October 2015.
“The missiles fired today are the results of sanctions. The sanctions helped Iran develop its missile programme,” Brigadier General Hussain Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, was quoted as saying by Fars.
The IRGC, a powerful force that reports directly to the supreme leader, is deeply suspicious of the US and its allies. It maintains dozens of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, the largest stock in the Middle East.
Washington fears those missiles could be used to carry a nuclear warhead at some point in the future, even after Iran implemented a nuclear deal with world powers in January that imposes strict limits and checks on its disputed nuclear programme.
Iran’s missile programme is subject to UN Security Council resolution 2231 that calls on the Islamic republic not to develop missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Iran says its missiles are solely a conventional deterrent.
Washington said Tuesday’s missile tests would not violate the Iran nuclear deal itself, under which Tehran has won relief from economic sanctions. That deal was also endorsed in resolution 2231.