|Iran has conducted 10 days of naval war games in the Strait of Hormuz amid increasing tension with the West [AFP]|
Iran has test-fired two “long-range” missiles during naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported.
“We have test fired a long-range shore-to-sea missile called Ghadr [Capable], which managed to successfully destroy predetermined targets in the Gulf,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Deputy Navy Commander Mahmoud Mousavi as saying on Monday.
Later, state television quoted him as saying: “Today our Nour [Light] surface-to-surface long-range missile was also successfully launched.”
He said it was the “first time” a Ghadr missile had been tested.
Both the Ghadr and Nour missiles are said to have a range of 200km, which is generally considered medium-range or even short-range for a cruise missile, even though Iran described them as “long-range”.
“This is not by any means the longest-range missiles that the Islamic Republic possesses,” Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, who has reported extensively on Iran, said.
“We know that back in 2009 Sejil-2 was unveiled and it has a range of 2,000km. At the time they said it was capable of reaching various targets in Europe and also Tel Aviv.”
Mousavi earlier told IRNA that “the Ghadr is an ultra-modern missile with an integrated, ultra-precise radar whose range and intelligent anti-detection system have been improved over previous generations”.
He said the navy had successfully tested “an anti-radar medium-range missile” on Sunday and that a Nasr anti-ship missile with a shorter range was also to be launched on Monday.
The Ghadr is said to be entirely built by Iran, while the Nour and Nasr missiles are based on Chinese designs.
Mousavi said observers from the country’s closest Arab ally, Syria, were attending the end of its 10-day naval exercise on Monday.
The missile’s launch and the military exercises are meant to show Iran’s military capabilities at a time when the US and other Western nations are increasing pressure over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The fact that they are taking place near the Strait of Hormuz has focused attention on Iran’s threats in recent days that it could close the narrow channel, a strategic oil route at the entrance to the Gulf, if more sanctions are imposed.
Iran said on Monday it had no intention of closing the vital waterway, but it has carried out “mock” exercises on shutting it.
“No order has been given for the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. But we are prepared for various scenarios,” state television quoted navy chief Habibollah Sayyari as saying.
In a move that could intensify a brewing Gulf showdown, US President Barack Obama on Saturday signed into law tough new sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and financial sector.
The EU is also mulling an embargo on Iranian oil purchases, and a decision could be announced at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting at the end of the month.
“Iran is resorting to military [activity] as a way to deter its opponents,” Riad Kahwaji, founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told Al Jazeera.
“We await the EU’s tough sanctions on Iranian oil … so [Iran] feels more isolated and more pressured,” he said.