National Security

Iran Rolls Out New Missiles Named After Commanders Killed by American Airstrike

Gen. Qassem Soleimani
Gen. Qassem Soleimani / Getty Images

Iran announced the creation of new missiles named in honor of two commanders killed in an American airstrike, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi missile systems vary in size and range, but analysts expect both to have the ability to strike areas of vital importance. 

With a range of more than 800 miles, the Qassem Soleimani missile system allows Iran to target Israel, while the Abu Mahdi naval cruise missile's 620-mile range enables strikes on the Persian Gulf, where Iran shares an aquatic border with the United Arab Emirates. The new missiles are massive upgrades for the Islamic Republic—Iran's previously known naval cruise missiles have a range of fewer than 200 miles.

"This is quite sophisticated. It's the kind of system that state-of-the-art militaries would want to use," said Fabian Hinz, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Both missiles are named for military leaders killed in an American airstrike in Iraq in January. Qassem Soleimani was a general for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the White House designated as a terrorist organization last year.

Soleimani was instrumental in building the Iranian "fifth column," a network of paramilitary and terrorist organizations backed by Iran throughout the Middle East. Attacks committed by the fifth column forces have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members.

If functional, these missiles pose a significant threat to the region. Iran has lashed out in recent months amid domestic instability, which has been further undermined by a recent peace agreement, brokered by Washington, that normalized relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel—two of Tehran's top adversaries.

Iran has responded to its weakening position by attempting to interfere with the U.S. presidential election in an effort to change Washington's Iran policy. Tehran has also organized agreements to pay the Taliban to target American troops and intercepted oiler tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Meanwhile, President Trump has announced he will pursue aggressive snapback sanctions on Iran in the coming weeks.