US threats sanctions as Iran tests long-range missiles branded with anti-Israeli message
Published 09/03/2016 | 12:57
Iran has allegedly launched two new ballistic rockets emblazoned with “Israel should be wiped from history” amidst growing tensions from the US over its ongoing development of long-range missiles.
The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) launched the missiles from northern Iran against targets in the south-east, reports Tehran.
State television showed footage of two Qadr missiles being launched and quoted an Iranian general saying they were “designed with a range of 2,000 km… [and] are able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance”.
Iranian agencies said the missiles tested were stamped with the words "Israel should be wiped from the pages of history" in Hebrew, though official photographs of the rockets do not display the alleged inscription.
There is less than 1,000 km between Iran and Israel’s capital Tel Aviv, and the IRGC maintains the largest stock in the Middle East of short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
The tests on Tuesday drew a threat of new sanctions from the United States, who in January imposed several economy and travel restrictions on Iran for a previous round of ballistic test flights.
The missile tests are thought to underline a rift in Iran between those hardline groups opposed to normalising relations with the West, and President Hassan Rouhani’s relatively moderate government which is trying to attract foreign investment to Iran.
Mr Rouhani's popularity has soared since the nuclear deal in January, under which Tehran won relief from international sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear research.
The president's allies made strong gains in recent elections to parliament and foreign business delegations have since flocked to Tehran following the lifting of decades long sanctions.
But hardliners, including senior IRGC commanders, have warned that economic ties could strengthen Western influence and threaten the Islamic Republic.
“The more sanctions and pressure our enemies apply... the more we will develop our missile program," an IRGC spokesperson said on state television following the tests.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio the tests showed Iran's hostility had not changed since implementing a nuclear deal with world powers in January, despite President Hassan Rouhani's overtures to the West.
"To my regret there are some in the West who are misled by the honeyed words of part of the Iranian leadership while the other part continues to procure equipment and weaponry, to arm terrorist groups," Mr Yaalon said.