Iranian Official: No Scientific Barriers to Increasing Missile Range

Iran faces no technical restrictions on increasing the range of its missiles, an Iranian official said.

Speaking at the Iran University of Science and Technology in Tehran on January 29, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, emphasized that Iranian scientists do not have any scientific barriers on the development of missiles with longer ranges. He confirmed that Iran currently has no plans to extend the ranges of offensive missiles, preferring instead to develop precision capabilities.

Fars News Agency quoted Shamkhani as saying, “Iran has no scientific and operational restrictions for increasing the range of its military missiles, and it is only continuously working on boosting the precision [of the missiles] based on its defense doctrine, and has no intention to increase their range.”

He rejected criticism from Israel and Western governments of Iran’s space program, referring to their statements as a “propaganda campaign.” Earlier this month, Iran carried out a launch of a space rocket that U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo claimed could be used in developing the technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Secretary of State Pompeo said of the space launch, “The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk. We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation.”

The rocket later failed to reach orbit, after a launch in mid-January.

Iran has rejected American and European pressure on its missile program. In recent comments, Defense Minister Amir Hatami said in reference to Iran’s state rivals, “The enemies say Iran’s missile power should be eliminated, but we have repeatedly said our missile capabilities are not negotiable.”

Last year, The New York Times reported, based on satellite imagery, that Iran had resumed activity at a facility geared toward the development of long-range missiles. Officially, the Iranian government says it has limited the range of its missiles to 2,000 kilometers – sufficient to target Israel and Gulf Cooperation Council countries – and is not working on an ICBM. Iranian officials have regularly stated that the restriction is political, not technical.

The U.S. and Israel, among others, suspect Iran of clandestinely working on a nuclear weapons program, an accusation that Iran rejects. An Iranian ICBM would serve as a potential delivery mechanism for a theoretical Iranian nuclear warhead.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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