Iranian, Russian and Chinese navies in a joint exercise in the Indian Ocean in February 2021

Iran Claims Navy Can Launch Ballistic Missiles, Extending Range

Tuesday, 02/13/2024

Iran claimed Monday to have “successfully” launched a long-range ballistic missile from a warship, underlining the regime’s rising belligerence amid a regional crisis.

“Nowhere is safe for those powers who seek to threaten our security,” IRGC commander Hossein Salami said in a thinly veiled threat to the United States and its allies, suggesting that Iran’s “ocean-liners” can get within range of any target.

Tasnim news released videos showing the launch of a missile from the deck of a vessel, however the type of the missile has not yet been verified. If true that a long-range ballistic missile was fired from a vessel, it would mark a significant moment, since Iran has always maintained that its military posture is purely defensive. But boasting about warships appearing “at any spot in the oceans” with long-range missiles is not.

So far, no images of a test has been revealed, and Iranian government media on Tuesday did not follow up on the claim, but Salami's statements shows the IRGC is pursuing some project the use ships as a launching pad for long-range missiles.

In the last few years, Iran has moved from a largely subdued, albeit disgruntled, regional power to one constantly flexing its muscles and daring confrontation –probably because it knows it will not get one.

At every turn in his term, President Joe Biden has made it clear that he’s not looking for conflict with Iran, specially since the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel. Around 170 attacks by Iran's proxies on US forces has not altered that US policy –not even after a drone strike in Jordan last month that killed three American soldiers and wounded many more.

President Biden did react to the loss, of course, authorizing a “multi-layered” strike on targets related to Iran’s IRGC in Iraq and Syria. But his critics were not satisfied. He had waited “too long”, they said, “telegraphing” the military’s intentions, which helped the IRGC move out of the way and avoid a costly embarrassment.

It is this cautious approach, Biden critics say, that has emboldened Iran to a dangerous degree.

Far more worrying than an unverified missile launch, however, and far more telling in terms of Iran’s growing belligerence, is Iran’s nuclear program.

On Monday, not long before Salami claimed a new missile test, Iran’s former head of Atomic Energy Organizations signaled that his country was closer than ever to a nuclear weapon. 

In a televised interview, Ali-Akbar Salehi was asked about Iran’s capability to develop a nuclear warhead. He refused a direct answer but said, “think about what a car needs; it needs a chassis, an engine, a steering wheel, a gearbox. You ask if we've made the gearbox, I say yes. Have we made the engine? Yes, but each one serves its own purpose".

"We have [crossed] all the thresholds of nuclear science and technology,” he summed up.

Iranian officials have always insisted that the country’s nuclear program is peaceful, but experts including the head of the UN nuclear watchdog say enriching uranium to such levels as Iran has done (60%) cannot be justified or even explained by peaceful intentions.

Once more, Biden critics point at him and his administration.

“Iran is within weeks of testing nuclear weapons and the Biden Administration has helped make an additional $100 billion available to them since Biden took office to help fund the project,” said former White House official and Director of Allison Center for National Security. “We’re getting to the threshold in which only military force may be required.”

President Biden hoped (and tried from his first day in office) to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran or forge some form of agreement to at least slow Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons. He abandoned Trump's ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran, taking most threats off the table and looking the other way as Iran pocketed billions shipping oil to China. To top it all, the administration released billions in frozen Iranian funds.

But all it has received in return is more belligerence, more missiles and suicide drones –which, ironically, may force Joe Biden to enter a confrontation he’s tried so hard to avoid.

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