Iran Seeks to Improve Missile Range in Defiance of U.S.

UN Security Council meets to discuss possible violations of nuclear deal resolution in Tehran's missile program

In this photo provided by the Iranian Ministry of Defense, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran, on Monday, November 5, 2018.
,AP

Iran wants to increase its missile range, a senior military official said on Tuesday, a move that would irk the United States which views Tehran's weapons program as a regional security threat.

>> In swipe at Trump, Iran threatens again to close off the Persian Gulf

"One of our most important programmes is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition," said the head of the Iranian air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

"We don't see any limitations for ourselves in this field," he added. Iran's military has cited 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) as the current missile range, and said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plus U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf, were within range.

Nasirzadeh did not give details on how far Iran would like to increase that range, according to the Fars report. Tehran insists its missile program is purely defensive but has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Washington tries to strangle its exports.

Also on Tuesday, the UN Security Council is meeting at the request of three Western powers involved in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal who say Tehran's ballistic missile launches are "inconsistent" with the council resolution that endorsed the agreement.

France, Germany and Britain sent a letter to council, which was circulated Tuesday, saying Iran's launches of Zolfaqar and Qiam short-range ballistic missiles on September 30 and October 1 "are inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

A provision in the 2015 Security Council resolution calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

Before Tuesday's closed-door council meeting, Britain's UN Ambassador Karen Pierce called the launches "inconsistent behavior," but said more information is needed to determine whether they violated the resolution.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the missile programme in a Twitter post on Tuesday, in which he said the UN Security Council resolution which endorsed the nuclear agreement did not ban Tehran from working on missiles.

"Making a mockery of the UNSC won't obscure failure to fulfill obligations & to hold US to account over non-compliance. Esp when even US admits that UNSCR2231 does NOT prohibit Iran's deterrent capabilities. Rather than undermining 2231, better to work towards its adherence by all." Zarif wrote.

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, criticising the deal for not including curbs on Iran's development of ballistic missiles.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran's testing of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as a violation of the agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme. Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is not up for negotiation.