On the third day of military drills, the Islamic Republic of Iran's navy successfully launched a cruise missile from a submarine in the Persian Gulf.
The drill was part of a weeklong military drill named Velayat 97, after the current Iranian calendar year 1397 (ending March 20, 2019). The exercise took place in the Strait of Hormuz, an important strait between the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman in which a large percentage of the world’s oil passes through — a point Iranian officials periodically remind the world when responding to attempts to embargo Iranian oil.
Iran's state TV, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, broadcast video of the green Ghadir-class submarine — designed specifically for shallow waters — launching a missile from underneath the water. The destination of the missile was not shown. According to media reports, other Iranian submarines such as the Taregh and the Fateh also have the capacity to launch cruise missiles.
The successful launch of a cruise missile is not the only missile-related news to make headlines in Iranian media. On Feb. 24, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, confirmed that an “enemy” country has been attempting to sabotage Iran’s missile program. “It’s been some years that we’ve known about this issue but we did not say anything,” Hajizadeh said. “They tried to sabotage in fragments and blow up the missiles in mid-air. But [so far] they have not been able to do a damn thing because … we predicted this and built a resistance to it.”
Hajizadeh specifically addressed claims of US sabotage previously on Feb. 20, saying, “If you are telling the truth, then why are you trying to negotiate on missiles? This means you are lying.” He also said, “We use their industrial sabotage to our benefit.”
The issue of American sabotage arose after Jan. 15, when Iran attempted to launch a satellite into space and failed. According to Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mohammad Jahromi, the satellite launch “was successful in the first two phases but did not reach enough speed in the third phase and did not go into orbit.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the satellite launches violate a United Nations Security Council resolution regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the United States itself has violated by unilaterally exiting it. Technology for satellite launches is not similar to those used in intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are used primarily for nuclear weapons delivery — a point that is ignored or unknown to the secretary of state. Nonetheless, Pompeo condemned the launch and said the United States is “working with our allies and partners to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic’s threats, including its missile program.”
In February, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed in an interview with NBC News that there was a second satellite launch that was also unsuccessful. When asked by NBC News correspondent Richard Engel if there was American sabotage involved in the missile program as The New York Times had earlier reported, Zarif reportedly responded, “It’s a possibility.”
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