This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads.”
“The missile has the ability to hit parts of Europe and any location in the Middle East,” Pompeo said in a December 1 statement.
“This test violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” the statement added, citing the United Nations Security Council’s endorsement of the 2015 international nuclear agreement, which the United States withdrew from in May.
Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile proliferation is growing” and called on Iran to “cease these activities.”
The statement provided few details about the latest missile test.
It came amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has reimposed tough sanctions on Iran that had been removed under the nuclear accord.
The sanctions are part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what President Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.
Tehran reacted to Pompeo’s statement by saying that its missile program is purely for defensive purposes and not in breach of UN resolutions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi did not confirm nor deny that Tehran conducted a missile test.
“Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying on December 2 by the official government news agency IRNA.
“It is interesting and ironic that you cite a resolution that you have not only breached through your unilateral and unlawful withdrawal from the [nuclear] accord but that you also encourage others to breach or even threaten to punish and sanction them if they carry it out,” Ghasemi added.
Later on December 2, General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, was quoted by the semi-official hard-line Tasnim news agency as saying that Iran will continue missile tests to build up its defense and deterrence capabilities.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Iranian launch was significant and was a reminder that Tehran was unlikely to be deterred from pursuing missile technology or supporting militant proxies.
“It shows that our best efforts to try to talk them out of their aggressive support of terrorism is probably going to be as unsuccessful as the UN’s effort to stop them from launching missiles,” Mattis said at a December 1 security forum in California.
He added that while the strategic threat from Iran was less significant globally than the one from North Korea, he said it was regionally significant. “And it could grow beyond that if it’s not dealt with,” Mattis said.
Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program.
Iranian officials insist that the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.
“Iran will not abandon its defensive weapons…including its missiles that make America so angry,” Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in September.