Iran has test-fired a ballistic missile amid sky-high tensions around the Persian Gulf.
The Shahab-3 missile was fired Wednesday from southern Iran and flew for 680miles before landing east of Tehran, without straying outside of Iranian territory.
American military officials said they had been monitoring the launch site ahead of the test, and that at no time did the missile pose a threat to US shipping or bases.
Iran test-fired a Shahab-3 ballistic missile on Wednesday, which was launched from the south of the country and travelled 680 miles before landing east of Tehran (file)
It comes amid sky-high tensions in the gulf, that has seen a British-flagged oil tanker seized. The Royal Navy is now escorting all UK tankers through the Strait of Hormuz (pictured, HMS Montrose escorts the Stena Important on July 25)
The test is thought to have been designed to improve the ‘range and accuracy’ of Iran’s ballistic missiles.
But it comes amid sky-high tensions around the Persian Gulf – which has seen tankers attacked, a US military drone blasted out of the sky, and a British tanker seized by the Revolutionary Guard.
The US claims to have downed two Iranian drones – claims that Tehran has denied – and President Trump almost launched air strikes against the country but called them off at the last minute.
The UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker was impounded by Iran last week after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian vessel off Gibraltar earlier in the month.
Iran has said that it could be willing to trade the two tankers, while Britain has said it will not release the Iranian vessel until it has assurances that it will not travel to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
On Thursday, new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered Royal Navy warships to escort British-flagged tankers through the Strait of Hormuz after ripping up Theresa May’s Iran policy.
The Union Jack-flagged Stena Important was watched over by HMS Montrose today as the frigate imposed herself on the dangerous waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Stena Impero (pictured) last week in a tit-for-tat operation after Royal Marines seized one of its tankers off Gibraltar
The British government had previously said it was ‘impossible’ to escort every ship through the strait, and denied it had ‘taken its eye off the ball’ by allowing the Impero to be seized
Iran has said that it is willing to negotiate the release of the Stena, but only if Britain frees its tanker which was seized near Gibraltar last month
The policy U-turn was announced on Mr Johnson’s first full day as Prime Minister after Mrs May’s government claimed it lacked the resources to protect ships.
Shahab-3 is not a new missile design, and has been operational within the Iranian arsenal since 2003.
It is based on a North Korean design – the Nodong-1 – and variants of the basic missile can travel up to 1,200 miles.
While that is not enough to reach western Europe, it does put most of the Middle East – including Israel – within striking distance.
Experts believe the Shahab-3 is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Tensions have been building in the Gulf for a year ever since the Trump administration tore up a nuclear pact signed with Iran under Obama.
The treaty was designed to guarantee Iran economic benefits in return for curtailing its nuclear programme in a way that would prevent it from obtaining a weapon.
Britain has been seeking to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s seizure of the tanker in what London said was an act of ‘state piracy’.
Tensions with Iran have been rising since the US stepped away from a nuclear deal last year, but events have escalated rapidly since four tankers were attacked on May 12
France, Italy and Denmark support the idea, three EU diplomats said on Tuesday, but Germany has said it is too early to discuss how Berlin might take part.
Iran has also vowed to secure the strait and said it will not allow any disturbance in shipping there, state news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi as saying on Tuesday.
America has also massively increased its military presence in the region, which now includes two carrier strike groups and thousands of troops.
Washington is trying to put together a task force to tackle what it describes as Iranian aggression around the Gulf, but European leaders are loathe to commit.
The EU and its partners are still officially committed to helping save the Iran deal by setting up financial structures that will skirt US sanctions and deliver Iran the economic benefits it was promised.
Iran has been slowly breaching the deal as it tries to pressure Europe into action – including building up uranium stockpiles and enriching uranium closer to the levels needed to build a bomb.