TEL AVIV – Iran said Sunday it will continue to develop and test ballistic missiles following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s accusation that Tehran conducted tests of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of “carrying multiple warheads,” which could strike “anywhere” in the Middle East and even parts of Europe.
“Missile tests … are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” Brigadier-General Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, according to a translation by Reuters.
“We will continue to both develop and test missiles. This is outside the framework of (nuclear) negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission,” Shekarchi said.
He stopped short of confirming whether the Islamic Republic had tested a new missile.
Pompeo noted that the missile test was in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, part of the 2015 nuclear deal that calls on Iran to stop pursuing “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
“As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence,” Pompeo said.
“We condemn these activities,” Pompeo added, “and call upon Iran to cease immediately all activities relating to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi also would not confirm the missile test but responded to Pompeo’s statement by claiming that his country’s missile program did not violate any UN resolutions.
“Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature. … There is no Security Council resolution prohibiting the missile program and missile tests by Iran,” state news agency IRNA quoted Qasemi as saying.
He then addressed Pompeo directly: “It is … ironic that you cite a resolution that you have not only breached through your unilateral and unlawful withdrawal from the [nuclear] accord, but that you also encourage others to breach or even threaten to punish and sanction them if they carry [the accord] out.”
In a veiled threat last week, the head of the air division for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Amirali Hajizadeh said that Iran’s missile arsenal could reach US bases in Qatar, the UAE and Afghanistan in addition to US aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf.
“They are within our reach and we can hit them if the [Americans] make a move,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The U.S. and other Western officials have dismissed Tehran’s claims that its ballistic missile program is defensive in nature. Earlier this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a massive trove of documents smuggled out of Iran by the Mossad that he said was conclusive evidence of Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.