Iran tested a Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile this week, aU.S. defense official told a number of media outlets on condition of anonymity. The missile flew about 1,000 km (620 miles) on Wednesday night, the New York Times reported on Thursday. The test did not pose a threat to shipping or any U.S. forces in the region, the official said.
The U.S. military intelligence assessment was that the launch was part of Iran’s efforts to improve the accuracy and range of its missiles, CNN reported. According to the Israeli government, the Shahab-3 is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
This comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington in the last few months. The Trump administration is following a policy of broad economic sanctions to put pressure on Iran, which has led the Islamic Republic to violate conditions of the multipartite 2015 nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would be willing to go to Iran for talks. “Sure. If that’s the call, I’d happily go there... I would welcome the chance to speak directly to the Iranian people," Pompeo said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday.
The top U.S. diplomat also called on Japan, Britain and other nations to join a maritime force to guard oil tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. The U.K., which provoked a tit-for-tat move from Tehran after seizing an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar waters, is pushing for a European-led initiative, with shipping powerhouse Denmark, as well as France and Italy reportedly expressing interest in joining.
In the past few weeks, Iranian security forces have attacked and damaged four oil tankers – and took two others hostage – and downed an American reconnaissance drone in international airspace. This week, Iran also claimed it had exposed a CIA spy ring inside the country.
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The Indian government confirmed on Friday its diplomats in Iran had been provided access to the 18 Indian members of the crew of the British-flagged Stena Impero, which was seized last week in the Straits of Hormuz.
New Delhi also said Tehran had freed nine sailors, who are Indian citizens, out of 12 crewing the Panama-flagged, UAE-based Riah, another oil tanker that was detained on July 14 in the Persian Gulf.