A study conducted by the US Department of Defence said on Tuesday that Iran has the largest missile force in the region, despite decades of US imposed sanctions. "Iran has an extensive missile development program, and the size and sophistication of its missile force continues to grow despite decades of counter-proliferation efforts aimed at curbing its advancement," the US Defence Intelligence Agency said, AFP reported.
Iran considers missiles to be a strategic necessity due to the limitations of its air force, as the report states, "Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries in the region — particularly the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia — from attacking Iran," the report said.
Iran, it added, had developed a series of missiles that could strike at a distance of 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometres) – capable of reaching Israel or Saudi Arabia.
Iran has "the largest missile force in the Middle East," it said, whilst a US intelligence official said on condition of anonymity that the assessment included Israel.
Haaretz reported that Iran will likely buy new advanced fighter jets and tanks next year when a UN Security Council arms embargo is scheduled to be lifted.
The Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported earlier in the month that Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri highlighted the country's military might, claiming that Iran has become the biggest missile power in the region.
The Trump administration has stepped up what it calls "maximum pressure" on Tehran since last year after withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic and other countries and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran's energy and banking sectors. The US has also recently been building up its military presence in Saudi Arabia to confront perceived threats by Iran.
However, Iranian officials have repeatedly emphasised that the republic will not hesitate to strengthen its military capabilities, including its missile power. Back in February 2018, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei called for efforts to maintain and boost Iran's defence capabilities, "Without a moment of hesitation, the country must move to acquire whatever is necessary for defence, even if the whole world is opposed to it," he said at the time.