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Iran conducts new missile tests defying US sanctions
By Arthur MacMillan
Tehran (AFP) March 8, 2016

US: Iran missile test would breach UN resolution
Washington (AFP) March 8, 2016 - The United States warned Tuesday that Iran's latest reported missile test would be in breach of UN resolutions and that Washington could take the matter to the Security Council.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said he could not confirm Iranian state media's claim that Iran had conducted multiple tests, but warned Washington might take unilateral or international action in response.

Kirby said however that the tests would not constitute a breach of the Iran nuclear deal, despite this agreement having been enshrined in international law under the same resolution, UNSC 2231, that banned missile tests.

"I do want to make it clear that such tests, if they are true, are not a violation of the JCPOA," he said, referring to the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" -- the nuclear deal implementation mechanism.

"We have and we will use unilateral and multilateral tools to address this. If these latest reports are true, we'll take them up appropriately," he said.

"We're not going to turn a blind eye to this... I'm just trying to get to a technical point here, which is that it's not a violation of the Iran deal itself."

Earlier, Iranian state media announced that precision guided missiles had been fired from several sites over ranges between 300 and 2,000 kilometers.

In January, Washington imposed new sanctions on Iran's missile program just 24 hours after separate embargoes targeting its nuclear program had been lifted.

Also on Tuesday, some of the United States' top military commanders raised concerns about what they called Iran's continued "destabilizing behavior" in the Middle East.

CentCom commander General Lloyd Austin, head of US forces in the Middle East, told lawmakers: "A number of things lead me to believe, personally, that their behavior has not changed course yet."

Austin cited the continued missile program, Iran's attempts to develop a cyberwarfare capability, its support for armed militants around the region and Tehran's threat to block the oil export route through the Strait of Hormuz.

And he said Russia's decision to supply Iran with advanced anti-aircraft systems and shore-defense cruise missiles is also a concern, despite a similar build-up by US allies on the other side of the Gulf.

Iran conducted multiple ballistic missile tests Tuesday in what it said was a display of "deterrent power," defying US sanctions imposed earlier this year aimed at disrupting its missile programme.

State media announced that short-, medium- and long-range precision guided missiles were fired from several sites to show the country's "all-out readiness to confront threats" against its territorial integrity.

Pictures of the launches were broadcast and reports said the armaments used had ranges of 300 kilometres (190 miles), 500 km, 800 km and 2,000 km.

The United States hit Iran with fresh sanctions on its missile programme in January, 24 hours after separate sanctions related to Tehran's nuclear activities had been lifted under a landmark deal with world powers.

The latest tests, during an exercise named "The Power of Velayat", a reference to the religious doctrine of the Islamic republic's leadership, were undertaken by the Revolutionary Guards and its Aerospace wing.

Sepah News, the Guards' official media service, carried a statement confirming the tests, which come less than two weeks after elections in Iran delivered gains to politicians aligned with Hassan Rouhani, the country's moderate president.

The Revolutionary Guards report to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Rouhani, and their influence dwarfs that of the army and other armed forces.

Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a means for Iran's military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will have no impact on its plans, which is says are for domestic defence only.

Major General Ali Jafari, the Guards' top commander, and Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, spoke about the tests on television, with the latter downplaying the effect of US efforts to disrupt its activities.

"Our main enemies, the Americans, who mutter about plans, have activated new missile sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and are seeking to weaken the country's missile capability," Hajizadeh said.

"The Guards and other armed forces are defenders of the revolution and the country will not pay a toll to anyone... and will stand against their excessive demands."

Iran's ballistic missile programme has been contentious since the nuclear deal with the United States and five other powers was struck in Vienna on July 14 last year.

- 'Destabilising activities' -

On October 11, Tehran conducted the first of two ballistic missile tests which angered Washington. State television weeks later aired unprecedented footage of underground missile storage bunkers.

A UN panel said in December that the tests breached previous resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Iran has always denied seeking an atomic weapon and argues that its missiles would never be designed to, nor ever carry, the bomb.

The nuclear deal was heralded by moderates such as Rouhani, who staked his reputation on the negotiations, but hardliners in Tehran said it damaged national interests.

Announcing the new missile sanctions on January 17, one day after the nuclear deal was implemented, US President Barack Obama said "profound differences" with Tehran remained over its "destabilising activities".

Five Iranians and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to an American blacklist.

The White House had first threatened to impose the measures in December but withdrew them after Rouhani hit out at both their timing and intent. Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement.

Asked before the missile sanctions were announced how Iran would react to fresh measures against it, Rouhani said: "Any action will be met by a reaction."

Those measures came after four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, left Tehran following their release in a prisoner swap with the United States. The exchange took place on the same day the nuclear deal came into force.


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