Apart from a robust, almost defiant, demonstration of its nuclear prowess, the testing by Iran of a new medium-range ballistic missile ~ with a range of 2,000 km ~ has for now accorded short shrift to US pressure to halt its advanced weapons programme.
Through the prism of geopolitics, the defiance of America extends from the North Korean peninsula to West Asia. Ostensibly, the missile test marked the anniversary of Iran’s war with Iraq close to 40 years ago.
Beyond that domestic compulsion, the timing of the Khoramshahr missile test is profoundly significant ~ shortly after President Trump attacked the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in a speech at the UN General Assembly.
Iran has let it be known that it will increase its missile capabilities after Trump’s provocative speech while addressing the comity of nations. President Hasan Rouhani has even debunked Trump’s threat to abrogate America’s nuclear deal with Iran.
The development is bound to exacerbate tension between the two countries not least because Tehran has been explicit on its intent.
The authorities have been less explicit, however, on the timing and the location of the test. The video from an on-board camera is said to have shown the detachment of the cone that carries multiple warheads. If the version of the state television is any indication, the Khoramshahr missile’s warhead weighs 1800 kg, “making it Iran’s most powerful missile for defence and retaliation against any aggressive enemy.” The warning to the White House is as swift as it is severe.
In the span of a week, both North Korea and Iran have beefed up their mechanism of self-defence. The missile test can also be contextualised with sanctions that have unilaterally been imposed by the US on Iran. The tests do violate a UN resolution which calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to technology that is capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
While Tehran has denied any such plans, the latest missile was first displayed at a military parade last Friday, where President Rouhani utilised the grandstanding to assert that Iran would strengthen its missile capabilities. The missile has a forbidding range, a testament to Iran’s technological development. It is capable of reaching much of the Middle East, including Israel, and was, according to Mr Rouhani, being developed “as a deterrent”. In contrast to Kim Jong-un, the Iranian President has stopped short of boasting the possible targets of the missile.
The country’s Defence Minister, Gen Amir Hatami, has outlined its potential ~ “The ability to evade the enemy’s air defence line and to be guided from the moment of launch until the target is hit turns Khoramshahr into a tactical missile.”
For now, President Rouhani has reinforced his barb against President Trump ~ “A rogue newcomer to international politics”. From Pyongyang to Tehran, the missile is a symbol of the raging geostrategic ferment. Both countries have tangibly countered Trump’s bluster.