Iran, seemingly ill-intent on cooling tensions with the United States and Israel, test-fired new long range missiles on Monday, and also announced the successful production of its first nuclear fuel rods.
In defiance of U.S. sanctions, Iran began its latest round of military exercises last week and fired Mehrab, Nour and Qader missiles from naval ships in the Persian Gulf, near the Strait of Hormuz.
The missiles have range enough to hit Israel as well as American military bases in the Middle East.
We have successfully test-fired long-range shore-to-sea and surface-to-surface missiles... today, Deputy Navy Commander Mahmoud Mousavi said on state television. Additionally, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the missiles successfully hit and destroyed its intended targets.
We conducted the drill … to let everybody know that Iran's defense and deterrence powers on the open seas and the Strait of Hormuz are aimed at defending our borders, resources and our nation, Iran's navy chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, stated.
In the past week, the Strait of Hormuz has become a strategic location in the war of words between Iran and the rest of the world. One- sixth of the world's oil exports travel through the narrow straight, which Iran has threatened to close down if the United States sanctions the country's oil industry.
The Strait of Hormuz is completely under our control, Sayyari said after the missile test. We do not allow any enemy to pose threats to our interests.
No order has been given for the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. But we are prepared for various scenarios, the navy boss added.
Monday's missile tests came shortly after Iran's nuclear agency reported its first successful fuel rod production. The fuel rod has been inserted into the core of the Tehran research reactor, according to The Tehran Times.
While Iran claims that the fuel rod is for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the rod is also a necessary component in the development of nuclear weapons. In November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report that Iran was in the process of building atomic weapons and had tested parts of a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could conceivable be fitted onto the types of ballistic missiles tested this week.
The United Nations and European Union have sanctioned Iran's nuclear energy program, but Iran has refused to halt uranium enrichment. The Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear ambitions have been the source of increased tensions the U.S. and Israel, as well as with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and a number of other countries.
However, the new deevlopment did coincide with plans to reopen talks between Iran and the E.U. The head of Iran's Security Council, Saeed Jalili, said he is ready to send a letter to European leaders to begin a dialog that the E.U. has been pushing for for months.