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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Iran threatens missile strikes on Al Dhafra and other US bases

Revolutionary Guard: improved precision puts US military assets in the Gulf and Afghanistan within reach

A photo released by Iran's Revolutionary Guard shows missiles being fired towards eastern Syria on October 1, 2018. Sepahnews via AP
A photo released by Iran's Revolutionary Guard shows missiles being fired towards eastern Syria on October 1, 2018. Sepahnews via AP

Iranian missiles can strike US military targets in the UAE, Qatar and Afghanistan, a senior officer of Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned, as the country comes under increasing pressure from sanctions reimposed by Washington this month.

Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards' airspace division, listed the Al Dhafra base in the UAE, the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and the Kandahar base in Afghanistan, as well US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Gulf, as potential targets after his unit improved the precision of Iran's missiles.

"They are within our reach and we can hit them if they [the US] make a move," Mr Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by Iran's Tasnim news agency.

The targets listed by Mr Hajizadeh are all within the range of Iran's missiles, believed to extend at least 2,000 kilometres, but experts have questioned their accuracy.

According to Riad Kahwaji, founder and director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, the threat of an Iranian attack should be taken seriously, considering the Islamic Republic’s growing arsenal of advanced long-range warheads.

“Iran has formidable arsenal of ballistic missile and is developing its cruise missile capabilities as well,” Mr Kahwaji told The National.

“These missiles don’t need to be fired from Iranian territory. Iran has delivered these missiles to proxies in Iraq and Syria so it can have these militias fire these missiles without it being held responsible,” he said.

Mr Kahwaji cited a Reuters report in August, based on information from senior Iranian and Iraqi officials, that Iran had given about 24 ballistic missiles to allied militias in Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces. The Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar ballistic missiles have a range of 200km and 700km, allowing them to reach Saudi capital Riyadh and most US bases in the area, he said.

Tehran has also supplied allied groups in Yemen and Syria with short and medium-range warheads. Both Israel and Iran's Gulf Arab neighbours view Tehran’s moves in the region as a threat to their security.

By providing its proxies in Yemen, Syria and Iraq with ballistic missiles, Iran has surrounded Gulf states from all sides, Mr Kahwaji said in a report published on Thursday. This will require Gulf states to reconsider the deployment of their missile-defence systems and probably invest more money and manpower to counter the threat.

Tehran's continuing development of its missile capabilities was one of the main reasons cited by US President Donald Trump for pulling out of a 2015 international agreement which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include controls on Iran's missile programme or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. UN and US investigators have said missiles fired by the Yemen's Houthi rebels bore signs of Iranian origins.

Iran has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly its missile programme which is run by the Revolutionary Guard.

Iran's Defence Minister, Brig Gen Amir Hatami, stands next to a new short-range ballistic missile in August 2018. Iranian Defence Ministry / AFP
Iran's Defence Minister, Brig Gen Amir Hatami, stands next to a new short-range ballistic missile in August 2018. Iranian Defence Ministry / AFP

A report released by weapons researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California earlier this year suggested that Iran had been carrying out missile tests at a previously unknown facility near Shahrud in the country's north-east. The report said analysis of satellite images of the area suggested Iran may be developing technology for missiles with a range beyond 2,000km.

While the 2015 nuclear deal did not specifically bar Iran from developing missiles, except for those capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, it called on Tehran to refrain from such activity.

The US warned Iran that it had been put "on notice" in February 2017 after a report citing German intelligence sources said Tehran had tested a missile believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear weapon and with an upper range of 3,000km.

Iran has launched missiles across its borders at least twice in recent years, striking at targets in eastern Syria in 2016 and in October this year after terrorist attacks claimed by the extremist group ISIS.

Iran has also threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports.

US sanctions targeting buyers of Iranian oil went into effect in early November, six months after Mr Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear pact. The sanctions also targeted Iran's banking, aviation, shipping and shipbuilding sectors.

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Read more:

Iran developing new missile capabilities, US researchers say

US sanctions five Iranians over ballistic missile deliveries to Yemen’s Houthis

US sanctions on Revolutionary Guards causes Iran investment rethink

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