In what - if confirmed - may be the clearest indication that Trump's Iranian escalation gambit has worked, Iran has allegedly removed a powerful missile from a launchpad east of Tehran within the past few days, Fox News reported, around the time the US imposed new sanctions on 25 Iranian individuals and entities, as U.S. and Iran continued trading public barbs about the Islamic Republic's missile tests and nuclear ambitions.
Citing a satellite image taken on February 3 from ImageSat International and verified by U.S. officials, Iran was preparing a Safir missile for launch, the same type that Iran has previously used to put a satellite into space. The last time Iran launched a Safir missile was two years ago.
But in a surprising about face, Fox News learned Tuesday morning that Iran’s missile had been removed from the launchpad amid a flurry of activity on the launchpad which U.S. officials have been watching closely. It was not immediately clear why.
On Jan. 29, Iran launched a new type of medium-range ballistic missile prompting an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 31. A day later the White House issued a strongly worded statement from National Security Adviser Mike Flynn putting Iran "on notice." Days later, American intelligence officials watched as Iran quickly cleaned up the site and prepared another missile on the same launch pad near Semnan, about 140 miles east of Tehran, before it was removed.
While it is unclear of Iran has taken the first step to de-escalate military tensions, it would come at a strange time. On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader issued a new warning to the White House about the coming 38th anniversary of Iran's Revolution this Friday. "No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation," Khamenei said. "[Trump] says 'you should be afraid of me'. No! The Iranian people will respond to his words on Feb. 10 and will show their stance against such threats," as reported earlier.
On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch “very dangerous” and said the launch “should not have happened,” and agreed with President Trump that new sanctions on the Islamic Republic were needed. Also Sunday, Iran fired off five advanced surface-to-air missiles as part of a military exercise Sunday. The Iranian Sayyad, or "Hunter", missiles were launched from Dasht-e Kavir, a remote area 45 miles south of Semnan, the location of last week's ballistic missile launch. Officials said the tests were successful.
If confirmed, expect much more "diplomatic" jawboning from Twitter Trump in the coming weeks, as the president's policies of global intimidation seem to be bearing fruit.