Iran claims that it has built a hypersonic missile. Here's what we know
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, has said that the country has developed a hypersonic ballistic missile that can maneuver both inside and outside the atmosphere, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Hypersonic missiles are capable of traveling at speeds greater than five times that of sound (Mach 5). They can perform complex maneuvers, which makes them highly difficult to intercept by air defense systems. China, Russia, and North Korea have made claims about developing these advanced missile systems, while the U.S. has also made recent progress in this area.
Iran has a vast missile development program. However, building a hypersonic missile requires different expertise when compared to ballistic missiles, and no reports have suggested that the country has recently concluded a missile test, Reuters reported. In such a scenario, it is assumed that Iran is exaggerating its capabilities to draw attention away from its current problems.
Civil unrest in Iran
On September 16, a young woman died in police custody in Iran after she was held for violating strict rules on how women should dress in public. What has followed are incidents of anti-government protests, almost every day since, which have claimed over 200 lives, and more than 1,000 people have been arrested.
Unable to quell the unrest, Iranian authorities have publicly accused Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Israel, and European nations of orchestrating demonstrations. However, they haven't provided any proof of this allegation.
Saudi Arabia also operates news outlets like London-based Iran International, which is popular in the country and has been reporting on the protests. Saudi and U.S. intelligence have also reported that Iran might be planning an attack on Saudi Arabia to deflect attention from protests at home, the WSJ said in its report.
Stonewalling IAEA investigations
Iran, whose ballistic missile development efforts in the past led to the cancellation of the nuclear pact with world powers in 2018, has also been unhappy with the investigations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that have followed since.
The country is calling for the closure of the IAEA probe that is looking for undeclared nuclear material and has refused to provide credible answers to the questions raised, the Agency has complained.
After weeks of delay, the IAEA team is expected to visit Iran later this month, but the country has refused to operate the Agency's cameras at its nuclear-related facilities. For years, Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. However, the WSJ report said that its enriched uranium stockpile has swelled to 62.3 kg in the past three months, far greater than the amount needed to make a nuclear weapon.
Last week, Iran also tested its Ghaem 100, a three-stage space launch vehicle that can launch satellites weighing up to 180 pounds (80 kg) in orbits 300 miles (500 km) above Earth. The U.S., however, believes that the technology could also be used to deploy nuclear warheads, the Reuters report said.
Under such circumstances, the news of a hypersonic missile that could potentially penetrate air defenses is alarming.
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