Iran’s Revolutionary Guard successfully launched a number of “smart and advanced” rockets this week that were meant to convey a message to Iran’s potential enemies, state-operated media have reported.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the rocket launchings were part of a three-day military exercise held in the country’s central desert that began Monday, according to the Tasnim news agency, which is reportedly close to the Revolutionary Guard. They were carried out just days after the Trump administration put Iran “on notice” for testing a mid-range ballistic missile earlier in the month. According to the Daily Mail, Iran’s foreign minister had responded that it would be “unmoved by threats” from the United States.
Iran is already under economic, trade, scientific, and military sanctions by the United States and members of the United Nations due to various reasons, including Iran’s insistence on continuing its uranium enrichment program (which the United States and many other nations fear will lead to nuclear weapons production) and its role as a state sponsor of known terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Later on Monday, the nation’s state television ran video footage of rockets being launched out of the backs of trucks in the desert.
Head of Revolutionary Guards’ ground forces Gen. Mohammad Pakpour told the state channel that rockets with ranges of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) as well as the Fajr-3, Fajr-4, and Fajr-5 rockets were all successfully tested during the day’s exercises. (The Fajr-class are all short-range rockets.) The general said the rocket tests send a message to Iran’s potential military opponents: “We are ready to give a crushing respond [sic] to any threat.”
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, over the weekend told the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defense officials, “Iran doesn’t respond well to threats. We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios. Iran is unmoved by threats.”
But being unmoved as a statesman sometimes does not correspond to a military response, whether it be reactive or preemptive in tone — or both. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seemed moved to demonstrate the strength and effectiveness of its military rocketry, if only as a cautionary warning to its enemies.
Zarif addressed the sanctions placed against Iran, scoffing at “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which the foreign minister said did nothing but see Iran acquiring thousands more centrifuges to enrich uranium.
At present, there exists a nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, that was signed in 2015. It was designed to lift international sanctions against Iran in exchange for that nation’s cooperation in limiting its uranium enrichment.President Donald Trump criticized the agreement repeatedly during his election campaign, but his administration has not said what will be done to alter the arrangement or whether or not it will actually do anything about the agreement.
Iran, for its part, has always maintained it has no interest in nuclear weapons. However, regimes and political positions being ephemeral by nature, that interest might change, which provides a worrisome scenario for the world’s nations that are working for peace, stability, and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Iran is the largest Shi’ite Muslim nation in the region and as such is constantly at odds with several of its neighboring countries, whose populations are predominantly made up of rival Sunni Muslims. Besides the idea of general non-proliferation about nuclear weapons, it is feared that if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapons arsenal, it could destabilize a region that has been prone to wars for decades.
As it now stands, to Iran’s west, Israel, a nation that is not officially recognized by Iran and whose existence has been threatened numerous times by Iran’s leaders, is believed to have nuclear weapons. (Israel has never formally acknowledged that it has developed or controls nuclear weapons.) To the east, both nearby Pakistan and India also have nuclear arsenals. To its north, of course, is Russia, home to the largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world.
[Featured Image by Amir Kholousi/AP Images]