Iran reveals underground “missile metropolis” as regional tensions mount

A locally made Iranian cruise missile is fired during the war games in the northern Indian Ocean and near the entrance to the Gulf, Iran, on June 17, 2020.

Wana News Agency | via Reuters

Iranian state television has broadcast footage of a new Revolutionary Guard base, a “missile city” armed to the teeth with cruise and ballistic weapons.

In the underground facility, footage broadcast on Monday shows what appears to be advanced ammunition, including numerous missiles lined up on concrete walls. Outside, the base houses electronic war equipment, including radar, surveillance equipment, and simulation and jamming systems.

“What we see today is a small part of the large and expansive missile capabilities of the naval forces of the Revolutionary Guards,” said the Guard’s commander, General Hossein Salami, on the broadcast.

The state television broadcast did not disclose the exact location of the base and its authenticity was not independently verified. However, it is believed to be one of several underground facilities the Islamic Revolutionary Guard set up along the Gulf Coast as tensions with the US, Israel and the region continue to rise.

“Iran’s demonstration of its missile capabilities fits in with broader efforts to maintain pressure on Washington in response to extensive US sanctions,” Torbjorn Soltvedt, MENA chief analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNBC on Tuesday. “In the area of ​​nuclear, missile and regional security, Iranian efforts to weigh on US sanctions are proceeding apace.”

Washington and Tehran remain in a stalemate as both have expressed a desire to return to the JCPOA – the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that offered Iran economic relief from sanctions in return for capping its nuclear program – but each side wants the other this offers concessions first.

Iran calls on the US to lift sanctions if they want to hold talks. The Biden team, meanwhile, says it will not lift the sanctions if Tehran does not reverse its violations of the nuclear deal. These violations include increasing uranium enrichment and storage beyond the parameters of the 2015 agreement, restricting UN inspectors’ access to its nuclear facilities, and making uranium metal that can be used in a nuclear bomb.

The US itself initially dropped the nuclear deal under the Trump administration, which then imposed harsh sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and currency.

The “missile city” raises questions about how the US and Europeans will revive the nuclear deal.

“There is also no doubt that Iran’s growing missile capability is a complicated factor for the Biden administration as it investigates the possibility of the US returning to the JCPOA,” Soltvedt said.

Iran, which lacks the advanced air force of some of its regional neighbors such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates, has instead invested heavily in domestic missile development and has one of the largest missile programs in the region.

“The IRGC generally places great emphasis on the use of rockets to project energy,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. The Missile City demonstrates “the importance of the IRGC Navy’s conventional missiles in projecting their power into the Gulf”.

Critics of the 2015 agreement, which also includes the Arab Gulf states, would like a more comprehensive approach from Biden that confronts and restricts Iran’s missile activity.

This presents the Biden team with a dilemma, says Soltvedt: “The inclusion of issues like Iran’s ballistic missile program will make it much more difficult to reach a new nuclear deal. If they are omitted, however, relations with key regional security partners will become damaged. “

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