Iran warns of missile range boost against any threat from Europe

LONDON • The deputy head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has warned Europe that if it threatens Teheran, the corps will increase the range of its missiles to above 2,000km, the Fars news agency reported.

France has called for an "uncompromising" dialogue with Iran about its ballistic missile programme and a possible negotiation over the issue separate from Teheran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is defensive and not negotiable. "If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000km, it's not due to lack of technology... we are following a strategic doctrine," said Brigadier-General Hossein Salami, according to Fars last Saturday.

"So far we have felt Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles."

Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the IRGC, said last month that Iran's 2,000km missile range could cover "most of American interest and forces" in the region, so Iran did not need to extend it.

Maj-Gen Jafari said the ballistic missile range was based on the limits set by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is head of the armed forces.

Iran has one of the Middle East's largest missile programmes and some of its precision-guided missiles have the range to strike Israel.

The United States accused Iran this month of supplying Yemen's Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Teheran accountable for violating two UN Security Council resolutions. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with missiles and weapons.

"Yemen is in total blockade. How could we have given them any missile?" said Brig-Gen Salami. "If Iran can send a missile to Yemen, it shows the incapability of (the Saudi coalition). But we have not given them missiles."

Yesterday, Iran accused the US of responsibility for "atrocities" in Yemen via its support for Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition fighting Teheran-backed Houthi rebels.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said a White House statement last Friday in support of Riyadh "clearly and without question proves America's participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen".

In its statement, Washington had said it was "committed to supporting Saudi Arabia... against the (IRGC's) aggression and blatant violations of international law".

Shi'ite-ruled Iran and Sunni heavyweight Saudi Arabia back opposing sides in conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Iran warns of missile range boost against any threat from Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe