US general warns of Iran’s ability to go ballistic

As much of the world’s attention focuses on stalled efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal and check Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, a senior US commander warns of a threat Iran’s ever-growing ballistic missile arsenal.

Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie of the US Central Command told lawmakers on Tuesday that Iran now has about 3,000 ballistic missiles, some of which are capable of hitting the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

“None of them can reach Europe yet, but over the last five to seven years … they’ve invested heavily in their ballistic missile program,” McKenzie said.

“Their missiles have significantly greater range and significantly improved accuracy,” he added, calling the advancement of Iran’s missile program “remarkable.”

McKenzie further warned that Tehran has made major strides in developing increasingly capable long-range drones and in its efforts to develop land-attack cruise missiles, designed to hit predetermined fixed or moving ground targets. .

The warning from the general in charge of US forces in the Middle East comes just days after dozens of Iranian ballistic missiles hit the northern Iraqi city of Irbil near a US consular compound, destroying some residential structures.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the targets were Israeli “strategic centers” and suggested the strike was in retaliation for several Israeli strikes against Iranian personnel in Syria.

The United States immediately blamed Tehran for the strike and promised to support the Iraqi government in holding Iran to account.

McKenzie declined on Tuesday to say what Iran was aiming for, but told lawmakers: “We don’t believe that last weekend’s ballistic missile attack was actually directed against us.”

Yet McKenzie warned that Iran continues to see Iraq as the main battleground in its efforts to oust the United States from the Middle East.

“It’s that we’re the most distributed, the most vulnerable,” McKenzie said, though he noted that efforts by Iran and its various proxies to push the United States back by force have failed.

“Over the past few months, their attacks have diminished,” he said, noting that Iranian-backed attacks have been partly thwarted by better US defensive measures, which have limited the effectiveness of drone strikes. Tehran.

But McKenzie also pointed to Iran’s inability to convince Iraqi officials with their anti-US stance.

“They are finding it increasingly difficult to gain political traction with the Iraqi government,” he said.

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