Iran unveils enhanced ballistic missile as tensions rise with US

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James Rothwell
·2 min read
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File image of Iranian forces carrying out a surface-to-air missile launch - Shutterstock
File image of Iranian forces carrying out a surface-to-air missile launch - Shutterstock

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has unveiled a new ballistic missile with a range of up to 430 miles, in the latest escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington. 

The Zolfaghar Basir missile is an enhanced, naval variant of the surface-to-air Zolfaghar missile, according to Iranian officials, and can travel twice as far as other rockets in Iran’s arsenal. 

Tasnim, an Iranian news agency, published an image of the new missile resting on a launching truck during the inauguration of Tehran's National Aerospace Park on Sunday.

"This exhibition shows the comprehensive plan of the deterrent power of the [Islamic Republic's] system," Revolutionary Guard commander Major General Hossein Salami said at the ceremony. 

Earlier models of the Zolfaghar missile were fired on US targets in Iraq in January in retaliation for the assassination of Qassim Soleimani, the revered Iranian general who led Iran’s elite Quds Force. 

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They were also used in 2017 and 2018 on Islamic State targets in Syria, when the terrorist group was nearing the end of its control over the region.  

It was unclear on Monday whether a test launch of the missile had already been carried out. 

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the Soleimani assassination and President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. 

The new missile was revealed a week after the Revolutionary Guard opened a new naval base in the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil passes.

The important shipping lane and nearby Gulf waters were the scenes of US-Iranian friction last year when ships were mysteriously attacked, drones downed and oil tankers seized.

In July, Iran launched a missile strike on a mock US aircraft carrier during an exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, causing so much commotion that American military bases in the region were put on alert.  During the drill, soldiers abseiled from a helicopter onto the replica ship, and an Iranian commander was quoted as saying that an exercise with “long range ballistic missiles” would follow. 

Earlier this month, Mr Trump announced another round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear weapons programme, which will have enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb by the end of the year, according to White House officials.