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Iran hard-liners overjoyed with new missile

Iran’s hard-liners are having a moment of patriotic jubilation with the unveiling of a new long-range missile with a menacing name.
AFP via Getty Images

“The precise, radar-evading and pinpointing missile is capable of dealing maximum blows on the Zionist regime in any potential confrontation,” read an editorial in hard-line newspaper Khorasan Feb. 10.

The piece outlined the features of the “Kheybar-Shekan,” a new long-range missile unveiled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Wednesday.

The Persian name for the missile means “the smasher of Kheybar,” a significant historical allusion. "Kheybar" refers to a seventh century oasis that hosted a group of Jews who according to Islamic documents were defeated by forces loyal to the Prophet Muhammad before surrendering and handing over their wealth.

During an unveiling ceremony, the IRGC’s missile program chief, Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, said Iran’s latest missile has a range of 1,450 kilometers (900 miles).

In its front-page article, “The nightmare of the Zionists,” Khorasan described the name of the projectile as “a signifier of the IRGC’s purpose behind developing it.”

“It is crystal clear that Iran has built the missile to threaten the Zionist regime,” the article went on, citing “the missile’s capability to hit any Israeli city, building or site with ease and precision.”

The ceremony was held as Iran was celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution. “Despite all the hostilities and treason, the revolution made it to 43,” read the ultraconservative outlet Kayhan in a detailed piece on the technological development of the new missile.

“We will remain revolutionary smashers of Kheybar,” trumpeted the IRGC-affiliated daily Javan, borrowing from the missile’s name. The paper echoed the Revolutionary Guards’ signature anti-Israeli discourse with “Our mission is not to fade away like a myth; we are here to make it happen.”

In contrast, Iran’s leading Reformist dailies Shargh, Arman and Aftab-e-Yazd made no room for the missile story above their folds.

While throwing their weight behind the country’s missile program, Iran’s moderates and Reformist factions have been particularly wary of the timing of such events. Kheybar-Shekan is being celebrated at a critical juncture in the ongoing talks in Vienna between the Islamic Republic and major powers over the revival of Iran’s nuclear deal.

The missile drew the attention of Washington, which along with its Western and Arab allies has long feared that Iran’s missile program will be a menace to global peace, though it remains unclear whether the projectile could torpedo the nuclear negotiations.

“Iran’s development and proliferation of ballistic missiles … remains a significant non-proliferation challenge,” declared US State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter. “We continue to use a variety of non-proliferation tools to prevent … further advancement of Iran’s missile program.”

In 2016, the IRGC introduced another missile bearing a slogan in Persian and Hebrew that read “Israel must be removed from the face of the earth.”

Moderate former President Hassan Rouhani, who had constantly locked horns with the Guards, found the move severely detrimental to his nuclear diplomacy.

“They wrote slogans on missiles to make sure we wouldn’t enjoy the dividends of the nuclear deal,” he famously complained in a fiery televised debate before his 2017 reelection.

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