Iran has removed a powerful missile from a launchpad east of Tehran, according to Fox News. During the past few weeks, Iran and the United States have been trading barbs about the missile tests. The Pentagon is concerned about the removed of the missile, because Safir missiles use the same components as those used on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In the past ten years, Iran has expanded its ballistic program, according to a senior U.S. defense official. Two years ago, Iran launched a Safir into space. But in the last few weeks, there has been an increase in activity on the Iranian launchpad. Then in a surprising turn of events, Iran’s missile was removed from the launchpad, with no clear reason why the removal took place.
After the missile launch at the end of January, the United States issued a statement, putting Iran “on notice” regarding their ballistic missile program. ImageSat International reported a “missile integrations facility” near the launchpad that is normally quiet had a host of visitors on February 3 and a new missile was seen on the launchpad.
“The specific aspect of the Safir that is useful from an ICBM perspective is learning how to stage a missile, basically stacking one missile atop another,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
The same day the pictures surfaced showing the new Safir missile, the U.S. announced new sanctions against 13 Iranian individuals and 12 Iranian companies that have been linked to their missile programs. On Tuesday, Supreme Leader Khamenei issued his own warning to the U.S.
“No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation,” said Khamenei. “[Trump] says ‘you should be afraid of me.’ No! The Iranian people will respond to his words on Feb. 10 and will show their stance against such threats.”
Later, President Trump tweeted this message, “Iran is playing with fire. They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” The Trump Administration even campaigned on how it would put a tougher stance on its dealings with Iran and they have started out in that vein. How they will carry out that stance remains to be seen, although there has been talk of sanctions against the IRGC and individuals or entities related to the IRGC.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called Iran the “single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”, a position shared by former President Obama’s State Department, listing Iran with Sudan and Syria.
Despite the U.N. Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran not to conduct ballistic missile tests, Iran has continued to test missiles because the resolution doesn’t expressly forbid Iran from doing so. Iran continues to speak from a position of strength against the United States, despite its troubling economy and internal conflicts, particularly since the death of former President Rafsanjani.