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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Iran launches new cruise missile in Strait of Hormuz test

The US and Europe have expressed concern over Tehran's ballistic missile programme

Iran has aired footage showing what it says is the successful test of a cruise missile during naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran has in the past threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route at the mouth of the Gulf, in retaliation for any hostile US action, including attempts to halt Iranian oil exports through sanctions.

It has also previously threatened that Gulf states are within range of its ballistic missiles.

In August, Washington said Iran had test-fired a short-range anti-ship missile in the strait during naval drills it believed were intended as a warning following President Donald Trump's decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

"On the third day of the ... exercises, a Ghadir-class Iranian navy submarine successfully launched a cruise missile," the official news agency IRNA reported.

Iran's other submarines, the Tareq and the new domestically built Fateh (Conqueror) have the same anti-ship capability, IRNA quoted a military statement as saying.

More than 100 vessels were taking part in the ongoing three-day war games in a vast area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to the Indian Ocean, state media reported.

Mr Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme last May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Iran's expansion of its missile programme, particularly its ballistic missiles, has been met with expressions of concern by the United States and European countries. Tehran says the programme provides deterrent capabilities and is defensive.

Last December, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said that dealing with Iran’s ballistic missile programme had “taken on an added urgency because of the Houthis [in Yemen are] using Iranian missiles to target Saudi Arabia – and that is not lost on anybody”.

The USS John C. Stennis entered the Gulf in December, ending a longest absence of US aircraft carriers in the waterway in decades.

Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles. Recent claims it had built its first domestically manufactured jet fighter were rubbished by weapons experts who pointed to the similarities between the unveiled “Kowsar” aircraft and US-made F-5F jet build in the 1970s. Iran owned a number of F-5F aircraft before the revolution in 1989.

The country’s Revolutionary Guards on Sunday also accused "enemies" of trying to sabotage the country's missiles so that they would "explode mid-air".

Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was “quite possible” that the US was behind the second consecutive failure to launch a satellite in recent months.

In comments on Sunday, IRGC aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh said "they tried as best as they could to sabotage a small part which we import so that our missiles would not reach their target and explode mid-air."

In the comments reported by Fars news agency, he added: "but they couldn't do a damn thing because we had seen this coming from the start and had reinforced this sector."

He went on to accuse Iran's "enemies" of sabotage without naming any specific country or entity.

Iran reined in most of its nuclear programme under a landmark 2015 deal with major powers in return for sanctions relief, but has continued to develop its ballistic missile technology that was not covered by the agreement.

While the UN nuclear watchdog has said that Tehran has complied with the deal, the US and others have said that without articles concerning the missile programme and other regional actions the deal falls short.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the US administration of President Donald Trump was pushing a secret programme aimed at sabotaging Iranian rockets and missiles.

It said Washington was trying to "slip faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains" as part of a campaign to undercut Tehran's military.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231 – adopted just after the nuclear deal – calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons".

Updated: February 24, 2019 07:11 PM

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