War games conducted this week by Iran in the Gulf were intended to send a warning to Israel, the country’s top military commanders said on Friday, amid concerns over possible Israeli plans to target Iranian nuclear sites.
The Revolutionary Guards’ war games included firing ballistic and cruise missiles. State television showed missiles flattening a target that resembled Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor at the conclusion of the exercises on Friday.
“Through a simulation of the Dimona atomic facilities, the Revolutionary Guards successfully practiced attacking this critical center of the Zionist regime in its missile exercise,” the semi-official news agency Tasnim said.
“These exercises had a very clear message: a serious, real... warning to threats by the Zionist regime’s authorities to beware of their mistakes,” Guards chief General Hossein Salami said on state TV.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said 16 ballistic missiles of different classes had been fired simultaneously and had destroyed predetermined targets.
Britain condemned the launch of ballistic missiles during the war games.
“These actions are a threat to regional and international security, and we call on Iran to immediately cease its activities,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh rejected the British statement as “meddling in Iran’s defensive capacity,” state media said.
Iran says its ballistic missiles have a range of 2,000 km. (1,240 miles) and are capable of reaching arch-foe Israel and US bases in the region.
Iran has one of the biggest missile programs in the Middle East, regarding such weapons as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against US and other adversaries in the event of war.
Israel, which opposes efforts by world powers to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal, has long threatened military action if diplomacy fails. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz has called on world powers not to allow Iran to play for time at the nuclear negotiations, in recess at Iran’s request and scheduled to resume next Monday.
Israel is widely believed to be the only Middle Eastern country with a nuclear arsenal.
The war games took place as the eighth round of talks to revive the 2015 Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, were set to resume in Vienna on Monday.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said that European negotiators in talks to salvage the nuclear deal with world powers presented no “new practical initiatives” and were not constructive in the last round that paused on December 17.
“We do not see the position of some European countries as constructive, specifically that of France,” Iranian state media quoted Amirabdollahian as saying.
“When they say they are concerned about the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, we say out loud, ‘If you want to have your concerns addressed, then all sanctions must be lifted.’”
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who visited Israel last week, warned the troubled talks with Iran could be exhausted within weeks
The nuclear accord began unraveling in 2018 when then-president Donald Trump withdrew Washington out and reimposed stringent economic sanctions against Tehran, which responded by resuming and then accelerating its enrichment of uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear weapons.
President Joe Biden has sought to revive the deal, which was first signed between Tehran and the six world powers: the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Israel has long opposed the deal and has wanted to see it replaced with a stronger agreement, noting that a bad deal such as the JCPOA was worse than no deal.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told The New York Times on Wednesday, “We have no problem with a deal. A good deal is a good thing.
“Second best would be no deal but tightening the sanctions and making sure Iran cannot go forward. And the third and worst is a bad deal,” he explained.
Israel has been particularly concerned that Iran is dragging out the negotiations to revive the deal to play for time so that could advance its nuclear program, particularly its production of enriched uranium which is necessary for the production of a nuclear bomb.
Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to master nuclear technology for peaceful ends.
The talks have made scant progress since they resumed earlier this month after a five-month hiatus following the election of hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran has sought changes to an outline of a deal that had taken shape in six previous rounds of talks, leaving them largely deadlocked while Western powers warned that time was running out to rein in Iran’s fast-advancing nuclear activities.
Senior British, French and German diplomats offered a pessimistic assessment of efforts to revive the deal under which Iran had limited its disputed nuclear program in return for relief from US, European Union and UN economic sanctions.
Amirabdollahian said Iran had “managed to get [our] views orally approved by all parties in the draft that will be discussed next week.” He did not elaborate.