President Trump, two weeks on

Iran holds missile drill after fresh US sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at an exhibition showcasing his country's space achievements on Wednesday, the same day that Iran confirmed its first ballistic missile test since Mr Trump took office.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at an exhibition showcasing his country's space achievements on Wednesday, the same day that Iran confirmed its first ballistic missile test since Mr Trump took office.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Teheran maintains that recent tests are allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal; minister says it is 'unmoved by threats'

TEHERAN • Iran held a military exercise yesterday to test its missile and radar systems, a day after US President Donald Trump's administration imposed sanctions on Teheran for a recent ballistic missile test.

The United States sanctioned 13 individuals and 12 entities related to Iran's missile programme. Mr Trump's national security adviser, Mr Michael Flynn, said the US was putting Iran "on notice" over its "destabilising activity".

"Iran is playing with fire - they don't appreciate how 'kind' President Obama was to them. Not me!" Mr Trump tweeted early on Friday.

Ahead of the announcement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: "Iran is unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people."

He later added: "We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defence."

Hours after the new sanctions were announced, Pentagon chief James Mattis charged that Iran was "the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world".

Iran reacted angrily, vowing to impose "legal limitations" on Americans whom it says are involved in creating and supporting "extreme terrorist groups".

It said it would publish a list of names later.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards' website said that the aim of the military exercise in Semnan province was to "showcase the power of Iran's revolution and to dismiss the sanctions".

Iranian state news agencies reported that home-made missile systems, radar, command and control centres and cyber warfare systems would be tested in the drill.

Iran's medium-range missiles can reach 2,000km, sufficient to strike Israel or US bases in the Gulf.

But the Revolutionary Guards said that the missiles deployed for yesterday's exercise would only be of very short range - up to 75km.

Although tensions between Washington and Iran have risen, Mr Mattis said yesterday that he was not considering raising the number of US forces in the Middle East to address Iran's "misbehaviour" at this time.

Still, he warned that the world would not ignore Iranian activities.

Teheran confirmed on Wednesday that it had test-fired a new ballistic missile, but said that the test did not breach the nuclear agreement with world powers or a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.

Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the deal in 2015, but the latest test was the first since Mr Trump entered the White House. Mr Trump said during his election campaign that he would stop Iran's missile programme.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday and recommended that the missile testing be studied at the committee level. The new US Ambassador to the UN, Ms Nikki Haley, called the test "unacceptable".

The Security Council resolution was adopted to buttress the deal under which Iran curbed its nuclear activities to allay concerns that they could be used to develop atom bombs, in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

The resolution urged Teheran to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Critics say the resolution does not make this obligatory, while Teheran says it has not carried out any work on missiles specifically designed to carry nuclear payloads.

The missile row is just one of a raft of issues souring relations between Teheran and the Trump White House. Iran is one of seven countries targeted by the visa ban that he ordered last week, and its government has reacted angrily.

The order, which caused mayhem worldwide, was suspended by a federal judge on Friday, but only after Teheran ordered a tit-for-tat action barring a US wrestling team - due to take part in an international tournament in Iran later this month - from attending.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'Iran holds missile drill after fresh US sanctions'. Print Edition | Subscribe