KEY POINTS

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended Iran's missile program on Monday, after the country unveiled a new ballistic missile and launched an attack on U.S. military bases in Iraq last month
  • Rouhani has said that the country's missiles are not to be used for "aggression" against its Middle East neighbors, and are for defensive purposes only
  • Iran has been accused of helping its allies, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, with guided missile production

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended the country’s missile capabilities on a state broadcast Monday, after Tehran unveiled a short-range ballistic missile over the weekend, powered by a "new generation" of engines.

“Our missiles are against terrorism; our missiles are against crimes. We have never built and stored missiles for aggression,” Rouhani said. “We reassure all our neighbors and the people in the region that our desire is peaceful coexistence."

Iran recently launched a missile attack on U.S. military bases in Iraq in early January, following the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Iran continues to bolster its missile capabilities. 

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, unveiled its short-range Raad-500 ballistic missile on Sunday, which has a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles). 

The Raad-500 features new Zoheir engines, which are made of a lighter material than its predecessor. The Raad-500 is half the weight of Iran's older Fateh 110 missile, which only has a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles).

The Raad-500 is precision guided, a feature which was demonstrated by Iran during its attack on the U.S. al-Assad airbase in Iraq. Top U.S. officials have said Tehran guided its missiles to avoid American casualities during the attack.

Iran on Sunday also attempted to launch a domestically built satellite, which Tehran says is intended for scientific observation. The satellite failed to reach orbit. 

France on Monday condemned Iran's expansion of its ballistic missile program.

"Iran's ballistic program hurts regional stability and affects European security. France calls on Iran to fully respect its international obligations in this matter," a statement from the French Foreign Ministry said. 

As Iran expands its missile arsenal, Tehran has also reportedly been assisting its allies in the region obtain new weapons.

Iran has been accused by Israel of assisting Hezbollah in Lebanon with its precision-guided missile production. The U.S. Navy in December also seized suspected Iranian missile parts set for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.