This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iran has debuted a new, locally built long-range missile system as it continues its defiant stance against the United States amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on August 22 during the unveiling of the mobile air-to-surface missile system that since Iran’s “enemies don’t accept logic, we cannot respond with logic.”
“When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destruct the missile in mid-air,'” Rohani added in the speech from Tehran.
Rohani’s speech and the missile system are the latest volley in a war of words between Tehran and Washington that many worry will escalate into armed conflict.
The United States withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country.
Iran’s economy has suffered under the sanctions, which target its oil and financial sectors.
Iran’s oil production has plummeted to 300,000 barrels a day or less while its economy will shrink by 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund projects. Unemployment remains high, at 12 percent.
A series of recent attacks on international ships, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the seizure of a British tanker, have added to volatility in the region and on the global shipping industry.
While Tehran has denied the accusations, Washington has asked its allies jointly to form a maritime patrol to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry.
The August 22 ceremony to unveil the Bavar-373 system, which military analysts see as a rival to the Russian S-300 missile system, comes on Iran’s National Defense Industry Day.
Defense Minister Amir Hatami told state television that the missile-defense system can detect targets more than 300 kilometers away and destroy them at 200 kilometers.
Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
Despite the increased rhetoric and animosity, Tehran maintains that it does not seek confrontation with Washington that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.
“Will there be a war in the…Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on August 22 at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.