Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles and sent fast-attack boats close to a U.S. Navy ship in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend, U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News today. The officials added that one of Iran’s ballistic missile tests was successful and it destroyed a target more than 150 miles away. According to the report, the launches of the Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles were the first tests of the missile in two years. “It was not immediately clear if this was the first successful test at sea -- raising concerns for the U.S. Navy, which operates warships in the area,” the report said, adding that a U.S. warship had an "unsafe and unprofessional" interaction with Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) boats on Saturday. The I.R.G.C. boats reportedly reached within 600 yards of the tracking ship U.S.N.S. Invincible, which was forced to change course.
Comment: The harassing of U.S. ship and the new missile tests mark the latest episode of Iranian provocations amid heightening tension between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s controversial missile activity, which the Trump administration says violates the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231.
After Iran test-fired a new medium-range ballistic missile in late January, the Trump administration put the country “on notice” and demanded a halt to any further ballistic missile tests. But since then, Tehran has only doubled down on its defiance, and just days later, test-fired a surface-to-air missile from the same launch pad. I.R.G.C. leaders have repeatedly stressed that Iran would continue to develop its military capabilities “at all cost” and planned to launch more advanced missiles in the future. On February 23, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan said that Iran had increased the range, precision and longevity of its ballistic missiles and will continue to increase its defensive power. “Today, the primary and religious duty of Muslims is to liberate Jerusalem and to destroy the cancerous seed of evil Zionism,” he added.
Today’s news also comes at a time when the U.S. Navy in the Gulf region is increasingly concerned about the latest acts of hostile actions by the I.R.G.C. Navy. Last year, the U.S. Navy had a total of 35 encounters with the Iranian naval forces. The most high-profile incident occurred in January 2016 when Iran briefly captured 10 U.S. sailors in the Gulf.
U.S. lawmakers have pledged that they will impose additional sanctions on Iran because of its missile activity and support for terrorism in the region. “Between North Korea’s saber-rattling and Iran’s willful defiance, we certainly don’t lack for evidence of these rogue regime’s intentions," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement today. "This is why we need to develop a strong missile-defense system and to take a harder line toward these regimes. No amount of words, however clear or forceful, will prevent this kind of aggression; only firm action to defend America and our allies will stop them in their tracks,” he added.
The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.