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Iran says it has hypersonic missile that can evade 'all air-defence systems'

Relations with the West have plunged further amid Tehran's military support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Iranian Basij paramilitary forces walk near a Shahan-3 missile while taking part in a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) day in the capital Tehran, on 29 April 2022 (AFP)

Iran has produced its first hypersonic ballistic missile cable of penetrating all air-defence systems and travelling inside and outside the Earth's atmosphere, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday.

Hypersonic missiles, which like traditional ballistic missiles can deliver nuclear weapons, fly at more than five times the speed of sound.  

"This hypersonic ballistic missile was developed to counter air defence shields," General Amirali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace unit, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

"It will be able to breach all the systems of anti-missile defence," he said, adding that he believed it would take decades before a system capable of intercepting it is developed.

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The announcement sparked alarm from the United Nations atomic agency, which says that Tehran has continued to stonewall its investigation into the country’s nuclear activities.

Iran's defence industry has been propelled into international headlines with the war in Ukraine. The US said on 1 November that Russia was potentially looking to acquire Iranian surface-to-surface missiles. Moscow has already deployed Iranian drones against Kyiv, using them to inflict serious damage to Ukraine’s power grid.

Tehran’s military support for Russia has become the latest irritant in its relations with the West and has been cited by US officials as a further obstacle in the all-but-collapsed talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

'Glass palaces will crumble'

Iran's statement about the hypersonic missile comes as the Islamic Republic faces massive protests.

The protest movement over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody after being arrested over her hijab has morphed into a general outpouring of frustration among Iranians with their government.

According to rights groups, more than 300 people have been killed in protests, which Iran has accused Saudi Arabia and the US of fomenting, without providing evidence. 

On Thursday, Iran arrested a woman it accused of passing information to Iran International, a London-based news site Tehran says is funded by Saudi Arabia and which Esmail Khatib, the country’s intelligence minister, labelled a “terrorist organisation” this week.

Khatib said on Wednesday that Iran’s "strategic patience” with Saudi Arabia was wearing thin.

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“Until now, Iran has adopted strategic patience with firm rationality, but it cannot guarantee that it will not run out if hostilities continue," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Khatib as saying.

"If Iran decides to retaliate and punish, glass palaces will crumble and these countries will not experience stability anymore.”

Iran also blamed Kurdish fighters for fomenting the protests. Last month it launched artillery and drone strikes on Kurdish fighters in Iraq's north.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia had shared intelligence with the US that Iran was preparing an imminent attack on the kingdom. Iran denied the claim.

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