World Middle East First Look

Amid rising tensions, Iran tests Russian-built missile system

Iran says that it has successfully test-fired an S-300 air defense system, which has a range of up to 125 miles, as tensions between the United States and Iran continue to escalate.

In this April 2016 photo, a long-range S-300 missile system is displayed by Iran's army during a parade marking National Army Day, in Tehran.
Ebrahim Noroozi/AP/File
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Iran says it has successfully tested a Russian-made long-range missile, stoking anxieties as tensions between the nation and the United States continue to climb.

A report Saturday from the official IRNA news agency claimed that Iran officials had successfully launched an S-300 System missile from in the nation’s central desert during military tests.

That system has a range of 125 miles and can track and hit multiple targets. Purchased in an $800 million deal, the Russian-crafted missile took 10 years to arrive after pressure from the US and Israel encouraged Russia to suspend its delivery.  

Relations between Iran and the US have improved slightly since the landmark nuclear deal in 2016. In exchange for relief from US sanctions, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, easing fears that Iran could stage a devastating nuclear attack.

But ideological divides and tensions remain between the two nations, particularly pertaining to action in Syria’s brutal civil war and attendant humanitarian crisis.

And President Trump has aired criticism of the deal, a move that could further complicate the relationship. Last month, he put Iran “on-notice” after the country was reported to be testing a ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, his executive immigration order drew ire from the region after it moved to temporarily block immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations, including Iran, from entering the US. A federal court halted that order last month, but Mr. Trump signed a revised version Monday. The new directive allows for green card and visa holders from Iran to continue to travel to the US, but blocks applications from new immigrants.

News of the test came just as a fleet of Iranian fast-attack vessels tangled with a US Navy ship the same day. US officials say the Navy tracking ship, known as the USNS Invincible, was forced to shift its course after Iran guard vessels came within 600 yards of the ship and three accompanying British Royal Navy ships.

The officials said attempts to communicate with the Iranian ship were not returned, leading US officials to deem the encounter "unsafe and unprofessional."

"Well I don't know how much of a pattern it is, we actually had seen quite an improvement in Iran's behavior until recently," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters of the incident.

The tense weekend followed the release of an Iranian animated movie "Battle of the Persian Gulf II," which depicts Iran battleships opening fire on a US vessel and destroying it in response to US involvement with the nation’s nuclear weapon program.

While the film is a fictionalized take on the relationship, the concept is drawn from animosity between the two countries.

"This is a response to hundreds of (anti-Iranian) American movies and video games," Farhad Azima, the film’s director, told the Associated Press, noting that the film's release accompanied escalating tensions between the two by coincidence. "We are saying that if you fire one bullet against Iran, a rain of hot lead will be poured on your forces."

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.