Iran is to deploy missiles for a Revolutionary Guards exercise Saturday in a show of defiance a day after the United States imposed sanctions over a ballistic missile test launch last weekend.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have deteriorated sharply since Donald Trump took office last month promising a tough line on what he sees as Iranian belligerency towards US interests and allies.
Hours after the new US sanctions were announced, Pentagon chief James Mattis charged that Iran was “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
The new sanctions are the first of Trump’s presidency and target what US officials say is Iran’s weapons procurement network in Lebanon and China.
They are a response to Iran’s test launch of a medium-range ballistic missile last Sunday as well as its support for Yemeni rebels who attacked a Saudi frigate earlier this week, officials said.
Iran’s medium-range missiles can reach 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), sufficient to strike Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
But the Revolutionary Guards said that the missiles deployed for Saturday’s exercise would only be of very short range — up to 75 kilometres (47 miles).
They said the manoeuvres in the northeastern province of Semnan were aimed at demonstrating their “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington.
“Different types of domestically produced radar and missile systems, command and control centres, and cyber warfare systems will be used in this exercise,” the Guards’ website said.
The new sanctions do not yet mean that Washington has abandoned commitments it made to lift measures aimed at Iran’s nuclear programme, US officials said.
But Trump has made no secret of his contempt for that accord, which his predecessor Barack Obama approved in July 2015, and officials said Friday’s measures would not be the last.
Iran’s vice president on Saturday urged calm heads to prevail.
“These are worn-out accusations against Iran and even the (accuser) himself is ashamed of saying it,” state news agency IRNA quoted Eshagh Jahangiri as saying.
“If this nation is talked…