Iran tests missile as US tightens
Iranian army personnel participate in the Velayat-90 war game in unknown location near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran. REUTERS photoIran’s Navy announced yesterday the test-firing of a medium-range surface-to-air missile during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-sixth of the world’s oil supply.
State TV said the missile, named Mehrab, or Altar, has been designed to evade radars and was developed by Iranian scientists.
Yesterday, “for the first time, an anti-radar medium-range missile was successfully fired during the massive naval drills,” Navy spokesman Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi said, according to state media. “This medium-range surface-to-air missile is equipped with the latest technology to combat radar-evading targets and intelligent systems which try to disrupt missile navigation.”
Yesterday’s missile was fired from a warship, the Fars news agency said. The report did not provide details or say what distance it was able to fly, according to the Associated Press.
A military spokesman also announced that Iranian ships and submarines would today carry out maneuvers designed to allow them to shut the strategic Strait of Hormuz if Tehran so wishes. The show of military muscle underlined a threat by Iran to shut the narrow strait if more Western sanctions were applied over its nuclear program.
The potential for that scenario, and possible confrontation with U.S. warships that patrol the Gulf, was given impetus when U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 31 signed tough new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector. Under the measures, foreign firms will have to choose between doing business with the Islamic republic or the economically mighty United States. The aim is to put the squeeze on Iran’s crucial oil revenues, most of which are processed by the central bank.
The new U.S. sanctions are “unjustifiable,” Mohammad Nahavandian, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, told the ISNA news agency. He said previous sanctions had “failed to halt Iran’s trade.” “From [today], a vast majority of our naval units – surface and underwater, and aerial – will implement a new tactical formation, designed to make the passage of any vessel through the Strait of Hormuz impossible if the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy so chooses,” Mousavi was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
The U.S. has said it “will not tolerate” a closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran, though, has kept the threat on the table.
The deputy commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, told ISNA yesterday that “we will carry out whatever it takes to implement our defensive strategies in line with Iran’s defensive doctrine,” regarding the strait. “The Strait of Hormuz is a part of our defense geography as well,” he was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
Iran refusing to fuel
Iran is refusing to refuel some European and Arab airlines at its main international airport in a tit-for-tat move over major oil companies denying fuel to Iranian planes abroad, the airport’s chief said Dec. 31. “Government directives” ordered the ban, Morteza Dehqan, head of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport, told the ISNA news agency. “In a reciprocal move, we are not giving fuel to the airlines of countries which do not give fuel to our airlines,” he said. In October, Iran’s foreign ministry warned it would “confront” Western companies for refusing to refuel its planes in Europe, which it called a violation of international law. European authorities and airports have been silent about the reported measures. Some airports in the Gulf and southwestern Asia are also reportedly refusing fuel to Iranian airlines, including its flag carrier Iran Air as well as leading private airline Mahan Air.