- Launch comes as conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen flare
- Iran critics say nuclear deal will lead to more instability
Iran said it successfully tested a new long-range guided ballistic missile, a move that the Islamic Republic’s opponents will likely see as a sign that it will use the nuclear accord to build up its military power.
The "ground-to-ground ballistic missile" was fully designed and built by Iran and can be guided and controlled until it hits it target, Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan was quoted as saying by state-run news agency IRNA. The report had no information about the missile’s range, or the date and location of the test. State TV showed footage of the launch.
The test will likely further strain Iran’s ties with oil-rich Arab monarchies, who accuse Iran of seeking to expand its influence in the Middle East. Iranian lawmakers on Sunday passed a bill approving the general terms of the agreement with six world powers including the U.S. The deal places curbs on the country’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international economic sanctions.
Iran’s military spending as a percentage of economic output is lower than its regional rivals, according to World Bank data. Iranian officials say the nuclear accord can pave the way for regional cooperation on terrorism and other conflicts from Yemen to Syria, where it supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Officials have also indicated that funds unlocked as a result of nuclear accord will be primarily used to revive economic growth.
The missile test “will only accentuate concerns in capitals like Washington and Tel Aviv and Riyadh that the nuclear deal is not going to improve Iran’s regional behavior,” but rather allow it to use the additional funding that results for military purposes, Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi.
In Washington, President Barack Obama’s administration said it is monitoring reports about the test. “We will take appropriate actions at the United Nations if these tests violate any existing UN Security Council resolutions,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement.
The announcement of the test comes after Russia began a military operation in support of Assad, who is also backed by the pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.
"We won’t seek permission from anyone to increase our defense power and our missile capabilities," IRNA cited Dehghan as saying. "The Emad missile is an outstanding example of this."
Separately on Sunday, hundreds of Iranians attended the funeral procession of Brig. General Hossein Hamedani, who was killed by Islamic State militants in Syria. Hamedani is one of Iran’s highest-ranking generals to be killed in Syria’s conflict, which is pitting Assad against dozens of mainly Sunni groups.