Iran reveals a missile depot on the Gulf Coast

The Revolutionary Guard teaches muscle amidst tensions with the United States
A picture taken from the images obtained from the state news agency Iran Press on 9 February 2020 shows the launch of the new Raad-500 missile

AFP/HO/IRAN PRESS  -   A picture taken from the images obtained from the state news agency Iran Press on 9 February 2020 shows the launch of the new Raad-500 missile

A video broadcast through the Iranian media shows the major general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Salami, walking through a kilometre-long tunnel riddled with military hardware along with the other leaders of the elite corps.

The Persian authorities have thus revealed the existence of an underground depot to house a large number of ballistic missiles and launcher trucks located south of the province of Hormozgan on the Gulf coast. Printed on the floor of the complex, the flags of the United States and Israel were stepped on by the senior staff of the Revolutionary Guard at the entrance. 

"What you see today is one of the several strategic naval missile installations of the Revolutionary Guard", Salami said in a statement collected by the state news agency MEHR. The commander-in-chief also pointed out that "the missiles have a range of hundreds of kilometres, their precision has improved and they have a high destructive power".

The statements were a direct warning to the United States, which, hours before the inauguration of the base, had deployed four pairs of B-52 long-range nuclear-capable bombers, an aircraft carrier and a guided missile submarine to the region.

The aim of the deployment was to deter the threats made by Iranian officials and their regional allies following the assassinations of General Qassem Soleimani just a year ago and the scientist Mohsen Fajrizadeh last November.

Continuing nuclear threat

Days after increasing its operations to 20%, Tehran claimed to be able to enrich uranium to 60%. This move is a violation of the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 and, according to the Persian authorities, comes in response to Donald Trump's decision to abandon the agreement unilaterally in 2018. 

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), revealed that Iran currently has four tons of uranium enriched to 4% and that the AEOI is prepared to produce up to ten million tons of uranium per year. The revelation furthermore coincides with the first drill with home-made drones conducted in the northern province of Semnán.

Joe Biden has pledged to re-establish the agreement as soon as he takes office. In an article last November, the president-elect stated that he would offer Teheran "a credible path back to diplomacy". The Democrat promised that "if Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear agreement, the United States will rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-up negotiations".

Imagen de misiles iraníes
AFP/HO/Iranian Army Office - Image of Iranian missiles

However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, assured last Friday that his country was "in no hurry" to join the nuclear agreement and defended a lifting of the sanctions against Tehran regardless of whether the United States returns to the pact. Many Iranian political leaders have stated that "Iran's defence and missile capacity is non-negotiable".

Tehran announced last Saturday that it will expel UN nuclear monitoring inspectors unless US sanctions are lifted before the February 21 deadline. Parliament passed a law making it compulsory to halt the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and increase uranium enrichment beyond the limit set in Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement, if the sanctions are not lifted.

Mutual mistrust

In the perennial spiral of accusations, Ayatollah Khamenei passed on his mistrust of Western-produced COVID-19 vaccines and banned their entry into the country. "We should not import the vaccine from the US, UK or even France. I don't trust them," Khamenei said in a speech to the nation on state television.

These provocations are in addition to the detention of a South Korean chemical tanker and its crew by the Persian authorities as it passed through their waters. Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, stated that the seizure was not related to the freezing of Iranian currency and goods in the Asian country, but to an environmental issue, as the vessel was dumping crude oil off the coast of the Persian Gulf.

The US State Department condemned both actions in what is already the hottest dispute in the region.