Threats issued from Iranian officials against U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf are nothing new, however, it will be interesting to see the White House response to an elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commander specifically designating that American bases in Afghanistan, the UAE, Qatar, as well as U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within range of Iranian ballistic missiles.
Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC airspace division, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency, via Reuters:
They are within our reach, and we can hit them if they make a move… Our land-to-sea missiles have a range of 700 kilometers [450 miles]… and the US aircraft carriers are our targets.
In his remarks the IRGC commander singled out the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which hosts some 10,000 US troops involved in routine operations in the Middle East, as well as Al Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates and Kandahar base in Afghanistan.
The Iranian military official further boasted about the improved the precision of their missiles — a claim that hasn't been born out by both recent tests and a series of rocket launches in October which targeted an ISIS camp in Eastern Syria — nearly all of which failed to hit their target, with a number landing in the desert near the Iran-Iraq border.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran are already at their highest point in years as aggressive sanctions especially targeting the energy sector continue crippling Iran's economy, and after threats and counter-threats over Tehran laying claim to the vital Strait of Hormuz oil waterway over the past two months, through which some one-third of the world's oil passes.
And emboldened by closer trade ties with Shia-majority Iraq, which is Iran's second largest export market, in August Iran transferred ballistic missiles to Shia proxy forces in Iraq, according to Western and Iraqi intelligence sources cited in a Reuters report at the time.
It's possible that the IRGC's Amirali Hajizadeh could have also been referencing short and medium-range missiles now reportedly in the hands of its regional proxies as ready and capable of hitting American assets.
One senior IRGC commander previously boasted to Reuters that its ballistic missile systems had already been proliferated through the region, saying: “We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region.”
Unfortunately such statements will only give beltway neocons more fodder to utilize in arguing to the administration that it's time to more aggressively pursue regime change in Tehran, beyond the unprecedented level of sanctions currently in place.