The commander of US CENTCOM terrorist forces in the West Asian region has acknowledged the capability of Iranian ballistic missiles with high precision.
Less than a week before world powers resume negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the top US terrorist forces’ commander in the Middle East says his forces stand ready with a potential military option should talks fail, General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) told the TIME.
Iran has, however, shown its missiles have a proven ability to strike targets with precision, McKenzie says.
In January 2020, Iran launched more than a dozen Qiam-1 and Fateh-313 ballistic missiles from launch sites at three bases in western Iran that hit two Iraqi bases, Al Asad and Erbil, where hundreds of Americans were stationed. The missiles turned buildings, aircraft and living quarters into smoldering rubble. No one died, as most had managed to shelter in underground bunkers and trenches, but concussions from the blasts injured 109 American troops.
“Those missiles hit within tens of meters of their targets,” McKenzie says. “The one thing the Iranians have done over the last three-to-five years is they built a very capable ballistic missile platform.”
Iranian negotiators are set to meet with European, Russian and Chinese counterparts in Vienna on Nov. 29 to discuss the possibility of reining in the program in exchange for easing international sanctions. The US will not take part in the talks at Iran’s request, and American officials have repeatedly warned that time is running out to restore the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iran is now further along in its nuclear weapons program than ever, producing stocks of uranium enriched to 60% purity, edging closer toward 90% weapons-grade material, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog.
McKenzie believes Tehran has not made the decision to press ahead with manufacturing an actual warhead, but he shares concerns with America’s Middle East allies about the progress Iran has made.
“They’re very close this time,” McKenzie says. “I think they like the idea of being able to breakout.”