Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami referred to the new weapons in a televised speech on Thursday, revealing that a new surface-to-surface missile, called ‘Haj Qassem,’ has a range of 1,400km. The other projectile, an anti-ship cruise missile, called ‘Abu Mahdi,’ is able to reach targets more than 1,000km away.
Footage and images of the missiles appeared online shortly afterwards. One video, apparently released by IRIB broadcaster, shows the projectiles being tested at an undisclosed location inside Iran.
The weapons themselves are also seen on static display.
Iran is known to have an abundant arsenal of missiles, from the long-range Shahab ballistic missiles family to a range of multiple-launch rocket systems. Tehran officials have consistently maintained that its missile program is “defensive” in nature, and is only aimed at containing regional threats.
The names of the new missiles, which the minister said were developed domestically, seem to immortalize General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, a shadowy unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander of the Iraqi Shia militia.
They died in an American drone strike back in January on their way from Baghdad airport. The assassination of Soleimani – the first known instance of the US killing a foreign military official in decades – raised ire in Tehran and sparked spectacularly massive anti-American rallies across Iraq and beyond.
Iran responded to the strike, launching a slew of missiles on US bases in neighboring Iraq. No US or coalition soldier died in the retaliatory strikes, although the American military reported that several troops were diagnosed with head injuries.
Thursday’s show of force comes as tensions flare-up in the Persian Gulf. Last week, the US intercepted four gas tankers ferrying Iranian-produced fuel to Venezuela, garnering harsh accusations of “piracy” from Tehran.
The encounter at sea coincided with fresh threats from the Trump administration, which recently vowed to restore “virtually all” UN sanctions that were withdrawn after the milestone 2015 nuclear deal.
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