This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iranian forces have held military exercises involving ballistic missiles amid heightened tensions over the country’s nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against Tehran.
Iranian state television reported on January 15 that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) launched several surface-to-surface ballistic missiles against simulated enemy bases in the country’s central desert as part of the exercises.
It said that the drill included Zolfaghar and Dezful ballistic missiles, as well as bomb-carrying drones.
Iran has a missile capability range of up to 2,000 kilometers, enough to reach its sworn enemy, Israel, and U.S. military bases in the Middle East.
Iran has increased its military drills in recent weeks with tensions building during the final days of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Earlier this week, Iran’s navy held two-day short-range missile exercises in the Gulf of Oman. Those followed an IRGC naval parade in the Persian Gulf.
“The enemies should know that in the event of any violation and encroachment on the maritime borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they will be targeted with cruise missiles from the coast and the sea,” Rear Admiral Hamzeh-Ali Kaviani warned.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have risen since 2018, when Trump withdrew Washington from an international nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, arguing that the 2015 accord did not go far enough.
The U.S. administration also imposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate a new agreement that would also address the country’s missile programs and its support for regional proxies.
Iran, which claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, says that its missile program and regional policies are off the table.
In response to the U.S. pullout and economic sanctions, Tehran has gradually breached parts of the nuclear pact — under which Tehran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions — saying it is no longer bound by it.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, has suggested that Washington may reenter the deal if Iran complies with its terms.
But Iranian officials insist that the United States should first lift its sanctions.