Biden says US will ‘act’ if Iran missile tests confirmed
JERUSALEM – Agence France-PresseU.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on March 9 that the United States would take action against Iran if long-range ballistic missile tests Tehran said it carried out were confirmed.
“I want to reiterate, as I know people still doubt, if in fact they break the [nuclear] deal, we will act,” Biden said during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on March 9.
“All their conventional activity outside the deal, which is still beyond the deal, we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired two ballistic missiles on March 9 that it said were designed to be able to hit Israel.
Iranian state television showed footage of two Qadr missiles being launched from northern Iran which the IRGC said hit targets 1,400 kilometers away. Tests on March 8 drew a threat of new sanctions from the United States.
After tests on March 8, Washington warned it could raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council and take further action after U.S. sanctions were imposed in connection with Iran’s missile program in January.
“The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA agency, Reuters reported. The nearest point in Iran is around 1,000 km from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Iranian agencies said the missiles tested on March 9 were stamped with the words “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history” in Hebrew, though the inscription could not be seen on any photographs.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio the tests showed Iran’s hostility had not changed since implementing a nuclear deal with world powers in January, despite Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s overtures to the West.
“To my regret there are some in the West who are misled by the honeyed words of part of the Iranian leadership while the other part continues to procure equipment and weaponry, to arm terrorist groups,” Yaalon said.
Ballistic missile tests have been seen as a way for Iran’s military to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will have no impact on its plans, which it says are for domestic defense only.
The hard-fought deal, which saw international sanctions lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, did not extend to its missile program.
Biden spoke after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who forcefully opposed the nuclear accord with Iran, his country’s arch-foe.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace wing, said the longer-range missiles tested would be capable of hitting Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear power.
The IRGC maintains dozens of short and medium-range ballistic missiles, the largest stock in the Middle East. It says they are solely for defensive use with conventional, non-nuclear warheads.
Tehran has denied U.S. accusations of acting “provocatively,” citing the long history of U.S. interventions in the Middle East and its own right to self-defense.