Iranian media has quoted a senior Revolutionary Guards commander on Tuesday as confirming Iran had recently carried out a ballistic missile test, which is the first time the country has owned up to allegations made by US officials previously this month.
The confirmation appeared in the semi-official Fars News Agency and is the first time Iran affirmed charges made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who earlier this month said Iran had test-fired “a medium range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple warheads.” Pompeo made the charge on December 1st while calling on Iran "to cease immediately all activities relating to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
The "senior IRGC commander" did not specify precisely what type of missile had been tested, nor the range or capabilities. Though Pompeo's identifying it as a "medium-range" missile means it would be capable of hitting southeastern EU states, according to recent reports.
Despite US condemnation, Iranian leaders have remained defiant after the US pullout of the 2015 JCPOA last May. Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, told Iranian media, “We will continue our missile tests and this recent action was particularly significant.” And he added: “The reaction of the Americans shows that this test was very important for them and that’s why they were shouting.”
The IRGC airspace division commander further said Iran carries out out up to 50 missile tests a year, and that it would continue to doing so; however, he denied pursuing nuclear-capable missiles and described the program as "defensive" in nature.
.@SecPompeo: Iranian regime just test-fired a medium range ballistic missile capable of striking Europe & the Middle East. This violates #UNSC Res. 2231. #Iran’s missile testing & proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation if we fail to restore deterrence. pic.twitter.com/ZEKPpHI6Ij— Department of State (@StateDept) December 1, 2018
But the State Department previously described that Iranian "missile testing and proliferation is growing" and its arsenal contains missiles "capable of hitting Europe".
The same commander last month touted Iran's missile program as capable of striking US and allied bases throughout the region. In late November, just prior to the latest ballistic missile test, Hajizadeh, identified American bases in Afghanistan, the UAE, Qatar, as well as U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf as all within range of Iranian ballistic missiles.
He said at the time:
"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."
And previously in October the IRGC fired multiple missiles at ISIS camps located in Eastern Syria in retaliation for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, among them IRGC personnel. Though it's not known how many missiles hit their target, it was confirmed that many failed over the Iran-Iraq border and over Iraqi airspace.
Notably, the general targeted area was not far from where US-backed forces in Syria are stationed, though a number of analysts said Iran's strikes were ineffective.