Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps “successfully” fired several long- and shorter-range missiles during war games that began yesterday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Missiles with ranges of as much as 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) were tested against bases modeled after those of enemies outside the region, General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said, according to a report by the state-run Mehr news agency. Dozens of Shahab-3 missiles were fired, Mehr said in a separate report.
Iran said the exercise is defensive and demonstrates the nation’s “resolve and readiness” to counter military threats, according to the state-run Press TV news channel.
While Iran regularly holds military exercises, these come two days after the full implementation of an EU ban on the import of Iranian crude, as Europe and the US press Iran to curb its nuclear program. Representatives of the US Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China are meeting Iranian officials in Istanbul today, seeking a negotiated solution to the dispute.
Speaking in Tehran today, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, called the new sanctions an “antagonistic move” threatening Iran’s national security.
“Illegal and irrational actions taken by the US and the EU against Iran and its people are aggressive actions and considered against the country’s national security,” Mehmanparast told reporters in the first official press conference since the measure came into force.
Israeli officials repeatedly have said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
The week’s exercise “is an answer to those who speak rudely to Iran and say the military option is on the table,” said Brigadier-General Hossein Salami, acting commander of the Guards, the state-controlled Fars news agency reported today.
Iranian officials have at times threatened to respond to the embargo by blocking the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.
In a report published yesterday, Iranian lawmaker Javad Karimi-Ghodousi said that parliamentary members had started working on a bill to block vessels carrying crude to countries that have initiated sanctions from passing through the Strait.
Asked about the motion, Mehmanparast confirmed the matter had been raised among parliamentarians while playing it down, saying it hasn’t been approved as law. He also said that Iran “will use all its power to maintain security in the Persian Gulf so that the transit of energy is properly conducted.”
Iran is the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said sanctions against the Islamic Republic were “the harshest ever imposed on a country” and urged the nation to stand up to the restrictions with its “head high.”
The sanctions must be seen as “an opportunity to let go of the dependence of Iran’s budget on oil,” Ahmadinejad said today in a separate Fars report. “The use of oil as a means to sanction Iran must be taken off the hands of the enemy once and for all.”