Iran’s missile tests are purely for “defensive needs,” an Iranian military official said on Saturday, after a U.S. official told The New York Times on Thursday that Iran had test-fired a medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile on Wednesday, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
The liquid-fueled Shahab-3 can reportedly deliver a nuclear weapon, and has been referred to by Iranian officials as one of the country’s “Israel-hitting” missiles. The missile fired on Wednesday was launched from southern Iran and traveled some 680 miles, coming down east of Tehran, according to reports.
“An informed source at the armed forces staff said Iran’s missile tests are natural within its defensive needs. This missile capacity is not against any country, and only aims to respond to possible aggression,” Iran’s Fars news agency reported after the launch.
“Iran does not need the permission of any power in the world for its self-defense,” the report quoted the source as saying.
However, a report by a U.S. military official said the launch “appears to be a political statement by Iran, acting both as a carefully calibrated effort at escalation—and as a message to Europe.”
That report added that it “seemed meant to drive home the point that Iran had no intention on giving up on its own missile fleet.”
The launch comes amid heightened tensions between Iran, the United States, Britain and the European Union fueled by a series of incidents involving oil tankers in and around the Strait of Hormuz.
In the most recent conflict, Iranian forces on July 19 forcibly boarded the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, taking it and its crew to Iranian waters. The workers, heralding from India, Lithuania, Russia and the Philippines, are still in Iranian custody but are said to be in good condition.
China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany will take part in an E.U.-chaired meeting in Vienna on Sunday to determine if the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iranian nuclear deal abandoned by the United States in 2018 can still be salvaged.