That claim is false and is based on a willful misrepresentation of the source Reuters cites.
GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran wants to increase its missiles’ range, a senior military official was quoted as saying on Tuesday, a move that would irk the United States which views Tehran’s weapons program as a regional security threat.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear agreement in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, criticizing the deal for not including curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles.
“One of our most important programs is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition,” said the head of the Iranian air force, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
“We don’t see any limitations for ourselves in this field.”
Iran’s military has cited 2,000 km (1,240 miles) as the current missile range, and said U.S. bases in Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plus U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf, were within range.
The Reuters piece conflates ground launched ballistic missiles with air-to-air missiles that the air force commander wants to develop. The U.S. does not care about Iran’s air-to-air missiles. It itself has far superior ones. The U.S. does care about Iran’s ballistic missiles. But the Iranian general did not talk about those at all. The quote Reuters attributes to the Iranian general it is taken out of context and used to propagandize a non-issue.
The FARS piece Reuters cites is absolutely clear with what the air force commander means, even while its headline is probably too generalized:
Commander of the Iranian Air Force Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh announced the country’s plans to boost the range of its air-to-air missiles.
“Today, we are after increasing the range of our air-to-air missiles. Therefore, one of our most important plans is increasing the range of missiles and ammunition. We are after Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) missiles and ammunition and consider no limitations in this regard for ourselves because the Air Force should heighten the country’s deterrence power along with other (Armed) Forces,” General Nasirzadeh told FNA on Tuesday.
The underlined part is the only one Reuters cites. In the original that part is led and followed by its context – air-to-air missiles. That very clear context is simply left out. Reuters thus frames the quote as related to ballistic missiles even though it has absolutely nothing to do with them.
Air-to-air missiles are used from one fighter jets against other fighter jets and bombers. Beyond visual range is defined as more than 20 miles or 37 kilometer. BVR air-to-air missiles allow for attacks on planes that are only detected on radar. These are normal ammunition for any modern airforce and have little strategic impact.
Ballistic missiles are ground to ground munitions with a large range. Iran voluntarily limits the reach of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometers.
Brigade General Nazirzadah is head of the Iranian Air Force. Iran’s ballistic missiles belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace and Missile Force under Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Those are two very different organizations, with a different line of command, and with totally different kinds of missiles. The Trump administration opposes Iran’s ballistic missile programs, not its meager air-to-air capabilities.
The Reuters writers surely know all this. It is thus obvious that the piece is a willful manipulation of the original FARS piece it is based on.
The Reuters piece has to be seen in the context of the campaign to wage war on Iran currently run by the main neoconservatives in the Trump administration, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
On December 1 Pompeo tweeted:
.@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
The Iranian regime has just test-fired a medium range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple warheads. The missile has a range that allows it to strike parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East. This test violates UN Security Council resolution 2231 that bans Iran from undertaking “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology …”
As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence. We condemn these activities, and call upon Iran to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The tweet and the statement are filled with lies.
UNSC Resolution 2231 was broken by the U.S. when it exited from the nuclear deal with Iran. Iran and all other signers are sticking to it.
UNSCR 2231 does not “ban” Iran from testing and deploying ballistic missiles. In Annex II part 3 it says (pg 99/104):
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, …
“Called upon” is UNSC diplomatease for “pretty please”. It is non binding. Moreover the use of “calls upon” was a downgrade from the now superseded resolution 1929 in which the council:
Decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, …
The downgrade from a clear prohibition in Res 1929 to “call upon” in the annex of Res 2231 was widlly interpreted as giving Iran a free hand to continue its ballistic missile program. The U.S. and the Europeans may well want that wording to be different, but it is a part of the agreed upon nuclear deal.
That Iranian missiles can reach Europe, as Pompeo claims, is also nonsense. Iran voluntarily limits the reach of its missiles to 2,000 kilometers. At that range they would have problems to hit anything “Europe” beyond the south-eastern corner of Bulgaria. Iran does not need any longer range missiles because all its potential targets are already within its reach.
The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research SIPRI recently analyzed the questions around Iran’s missile deterrence. It concluded that Iran has a legitimated need for these:
Since the 1980s, when Iraq attacked Iranian cities, missiles have played a key role in Iran’s national security approach. Missiles serve as a counter to the overwhelming military capabilities of regional rivals (notably Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). The rivals’ long-range strike capabilities mainly rely on Western-supplied air forces, which are often equipped with cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs. In contrast, Iran—whose aging air force mostly dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution—has sought to maximize self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles.
Iran’s medium-range missiles, which are able to reach Israel and US military bases in the region, serve to deter an attack against Iran. The threat of attack was particularly highlighted with the escalation of the nuclear crisis in 2005–12, as Israel and the USA threatened military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
A tweet by John Bolton, which linked to the State Department statement was even more nonsensical than Pompeo’s:
Iran just test-fired an INF range ballistic missile capable of reaching Israel and Europe. This provocative behavior cannot be tolerated. https://t.co/EcPQ6MMjv7
The Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) treaty begins with the sentence:
The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, hereinafter referred to as the Parties, …
The treaty and missile ranges defined therein have nothing to do with Iran or anyone other than the treaty parties. That Bolton always wanted to kill the INF treaty with Russia, and managed to do it today, is a completely different issues.
With its strongly misleading report Reuters, or at least its correspondent in Geneva, is obviously supporting the neocon campaign that they hope will lead to war on Iran.
It is fake news from one of the prime ‘western’ news agencies about Iran’s declared intentions.