US officials: Iran test-launched a medium-range missile

Iran test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile inside its borders, US officials said Friday. (File/ AFP)
Updated 26 July 2019

US officials: Iran test-launched a medium-range missile

  • The test came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West
  • A White House spokesman called the test launch an example of Iran “acting out” as a result of intense pressure from US sanctions

WASHINGTON: Iran test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile inside its borders, US officials said Friday, defying Trump administration demands that it curtail the weapon program and demonstrating its intent to further push back against US sanctions.
The test came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West, mainly over the safety of commercial shipping in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
A White House spokesman called the test launch an example of Iran “acting out” as a result of intense pressure from US economic sanctions.
“You’ve seen their economy teetering on the verge of collapse for a while now. And when they’re backed into a corner, they’re acting out,” said spokesman Hogan Gidley, who also said President Donald Trump wants to begin conversations with Iran’s leaders.
Iran has responded to stepped-up US economic sanctions with a variety of military moves, and the Shahab-3 missile test launch could be considered another signal from Tehran that it will not back down.
The US officials who confirmed the missile launch spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
Tensions have mounted with Iran over a 2015 nuclear accord it reached with world powers. The deal eased sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Trump withdrew the United States from the accord last year, reinstating sanctions on Iran and adding new ones. Iran has openly exceeded the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure Europe into offsetting the economic pain of US sanctions.
Trump insists that Iran must agree to limits on its ballistic missile program, but Iran thus far has refused.
Nations still party to the nuclear deal plan to meet in Vienna on Sunday to see to what extent the agreement can be saved. The European Union said the meeting of officials from China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany will be chaired by the EU.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, an expert on Iranian defense at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Shahab-3 is a liquid-fueled, medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
“The Shahab-3 is the backbone of Iran’s class of medium-range ballistic missiles,” he said, adding that Iranian news outlets have previously called it one of the country’s “Israel-hitting” missiles.
It is derived from a North Korean missile called the Nodong-A and can fly 1,150 to 2,000 kilometers, or up to 1,242 miles, depending on the variant.
“Iran’s continued flight-testing has both political and military applications, functioning as a show of resolve against foreign adversaries and to improve the overall reliability of its missile force, which is the largest in the Middle East,” he said. “As Iran continues to escalate in response to the maximum-pressure campaign, Washington should expect more missile launches.”


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.