Iran fires 2 ballistic missiles, designed to reach Israel, in continuation of military exercise

 A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by the official website of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on March 8, 2016.
A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, in this handout photo released by the official website of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on March 8, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday (March 9) morning, the Fars and Tasnim news agencies said, continuing a military exercise that has drawn a threat of a diplomatic response from the United States.

State television showed footage of two Qadr missiles being launched from northern Iran which the IRGC said hit targets 1,400 km (870 miles) away.

Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles are designed to be able to hit Israel, the commander of the IRGC's missile battery was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance," Brigadier-General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA agency.

 

Iranian agencies said the missiles tested on Wednesday were stamped with the words, “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history” in Hebrew, though the inscription could not be seen on any photographs.

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,” Yaalon said.

The IRGC maintains dozens of short and medium-range ballistic missiles, the largest stock in the Middle East. It says they are solely for defensive use with conventional, non-nuclear warheads.

The launches followed the test firing of several missiles on Tuesday, which the US State Department said it would raise at the United Nations Security Council. The US legislature also said it would push for more unilateral sanctions.

Two months ago, Washington imposed sanctions against businesses and individuals linked to Iran's missile programme over a test of the medium-range Emad missile carried out in October 2015.

"The missiles fired today are the results of sanctions. The sanctions helped Iran develop its missile programme," Brigadier-General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, was quoted as saying by Fars.

The IRGC, a powerful force that reports directly to the supreme leader, is deeply suspicious of the United States and its allies. It maintains dozens of short and medium-range ballistic missiles, the largest stock in the Middle East.

Washington fears those missiles could be used to carry a nuclear warhead, even after Iran implemented a nuclear deal with world powers in January that imposes strict limits and checks on its disputed nuclear programme.

Washington said the fresh missile tests would not violate the Iran nuclear deal itself, under which Teheran would receive relief from economic sanctions. The deal was endorsed in resolution 2231.

Iran's missile programme is subject to a UN Security Council resolution that calls on the Islamic Republic not to develop missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Iran says its missiles are solely a conventional deterrent.