The test came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West, mainly over the safety of commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and two days before nations still party to the nuclear deal plan to meet in Vienna to see to what extent the agreement can be saved.
The European Union said the meeting of officials from China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany will be chaired by the EU on Sunday.
The test provides a new challenge for newly installed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – Britain is already entangled in a dispute with Iran over seized oil tankers.
It defies Trump administration demands that Iran curtail its weapon program and demonstrates intent to further push back against US sanctions.
“Iran’s continued flight-testing has both political and military applications, functioning as a show of resolve against foreign adversaries and to improve the overall reliability of its missile force, which is the largest in the Middle East,” Taleblu said.
“As Iran continues to escalate in response to the maximum-pressure campaign, Washington should expect more missile launches.”
Despite the Pentagon’s effort to minimise the strategic importance of the launch, it appears to be a political statement by Iran, acting both as a carefully calibrated effort at escalation and as a message to Europe.
Missile launches are not forbidden under the 2015 nuclear accord reached between Washington and Tehran, but a UN Security Council resolution, passed as the agreement was reached, said that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
A White House spokesman called the launch an example of Iran “acting out” as a result of intense pressure from US economic sanctions.
“You’ve seen their economy teetering on the verge of collapse for a while now. And when they’re backed into a corner, they’re acting out,” said spokesman Hogan Gidley, who also said President Donald Trump wants to begin conversations with Iran’s leaders.
Iran has responded to stepped-up US economic sanctions with a variety of military moves, and the Shahab-3 missile test launch could be considered another signal from Tehran that it will not back down.
The US officials who confirmed the missile launch spoke on condition of anonymity.
The 2015 nuclear deal eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program. Trump withdrew the US from the accord last year, reinstating sanctions and adding new ones.
Iran has openly exceeded the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure Europe into offsetting the economic pain of US sanctions.
Trump insists that Iran must agree to limits on its ballistic missile program, but Iran thus far has refused.
AP, The New York Times