TEHRAN // Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile tests on Tuesday in what it said was a display of “deterrent power,” defying US sanctions imposed earlier this year aimed at disrupting its missile programme.
State media announced that short, medium and long-range precision guided missiles were fired from several sites to show the country’s “all-out readiness to confront threats” against its territorial integrity.
Pictures of the launches were broadcast and reports said the armaments used had ranges of 300 kilometres, 500km, 800km and 2,000km.
US state department spokesman Mark Toner said that if the tests were confirmed then the United States would seek an “appropriate response” at the UN Security Council.
“We will also encourage a serious review of the incident and press for an appropriate response,” he said. “We also continue to aggressively apply our unilateral tools to counter threats from Iran’s missile programme.”
The US hit Iran with fresh sanctions on its missile programme in January, 24 hours after separate sanctions related to Tehran’s nuclear activities were lifted under a landmark deal with world powers.
The latest tests were undertaken by the Revolutionary Guards and its Aerospace wing.
The Guards’ official media service, Sepah News, confirmed the tests, which came less than two weeks after elections in Iran delivered gains to politicians aligned with Hassan Rouhani, the country’s moderate president.
The Revolutionary Guards report to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Mr Rouhani, and their influence dwarfs that of the army and other armed forces.
Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a means for Iran’s military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal struck last July in Vienna will have no impact on its weapons programme, which it says is for domestic defence only.
Major General Ali Jafari, the Guards’ top commander, and Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, spoke about the tests on television, with the latter downplaying the effect of US efforts to disrupt its activities.
“Our main enemies, the Americans, who mutter about plans, have activated new missile sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and are seeking to weaken the country’s missile capability,” Brig Gen Hajizadeh said.
“The Guards and other armed forces are defenders of the revolution and the country will not pay a toll to anyone ... and will stand against their excessive demands.”
Iran’s ballistic missile programme has been contentious since the nuclear deal was agreed with the US and five other powers
On October 11, Tehran conducted the first of two ballistic missile tests which angered Washington. State television weeks later aired unprecedented footage of underground missile storage bunkers.
A UN panel said in December that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Iran has always denied seeking an atomic weapon and argues that its missiles would never be designed to carry, or actually carry, the bomb.
The nuclear deal was heralded by moderates such as Mr Rouhani, who staked his reputation on the negotiations, but hardliners in Tehran said it damaged national interests.
Announcing the new missile sanctions on January 17, one day after the nuclear deal was implemented, US president Barack Obama said “profound differences” with Tehran remained over its “destabilising activities”.
The White House had first threatened to impose the measures in December but withdrew them after Mr Rouhani hit out at both their timing and intent. Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement.
Asked before the missile sanctions were announced how Iran would react to fresh measures against it, Mr Rouhani said: “Any action will be met by a reaction.”
The measures eventually came after four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, had been released from jail in a prisoner swap with the United States. The exchange took place on the same day the nuclear deal came into force.
* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting by Reuters