Tehran has ballistic missiles able to pound targets over twice as distant as previously thought, and can reach the American mid-ocean strategic base at Diego Garcia, a senior Iranian official has explicitly warned.
“In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.
Dhualnuri made the statements in the context of talks with the United States and western powers to curb its believed goal of creating nuclear weapons, Israel’s Channel Two reported Monday.
Iranian political and military leaders have, until now, only publicly admitted to possessing ballistic weapons with about a 2,000 km range. Diego Garcia, situated on a lone lagoon in the Indian Ocean, houses major Air Force, naval and submarine, space and communications, and logistics facilities.
The revelation suggests the validity of statements by Israeli leaders in recent years cautioning that the goal of Iran’s missile program and “ballistic umbrella” was to threaten a far wider circle of countries than Israel alone.
The Sejil-2, an Iranian-made surface-to-surface missile, can reach about 2,200 km (1,375 mi) loaded with a 750-kg warhead, according to U.S. Defense Department and arms-control sources.
The Iranian boast comes as Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, on Monday warned of Tehran’s nuclear weaponization ambitions, and increasing regional military and strategic clout.
While “the conventional threat to Israel has slightly diminished,” Gantz said, “Iran has not given up on its nuclear vision and will cling to it by every means. It is most important to prevent [Iran’s acquisition] of this capability and this can be done, whether by force or without it.”
At a similar address in 2012, Gantz said that “Iran is a problem of the whole world, of this region and of Israel.” He charged that “It [Iran] wants to establish itself as a strong regime and it will try to use it in order to fortify its position.”
“Iran’s ballistic missile program is a major threat to the Middle East and beyond,” according to a just released report by the Tel Aviv University-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
“Iran already has operational missiles with ranges of 1,500 to 2,500 km that can reach targets in the Middle East, Turkey, and southeast Europe,” the report charged.
“In addition, it has been working on an extended range version of the Shahab-3 and a 2000 km medium range ballistic missile, the Sejil-2, and may soon be able to produce missiles with a range of 3000 km,” the report said.
“Iran continues to develop long range ballistic missiles that reach beyond its regional adversaries, and may be technically capable of flight testing an ICBM by 2015,” according to a 2012 US Department of Defense report.
“US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2014 that Iran was expected to test ‘a missile system that could potentially have ICBM-class range.’
“Tehran has also enhanced the lethality and the effectiveness of its existing missile systems with improvements of accuracy and new sub-munition payloads,” the INSS report said.