Washington reacted swiftly Tuesday to Tehran's unveiling of a new hypersonic missile by placing a fresh round of sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program, with White House officials calling Iran's moves "destabilizing."
"The Biden administration has been very clear, very concise, and very firm on pushing back on Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, to include the development of an improving ballistic missile program," said John Kirby, director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. "I'm not going to talk about the specific reports of this alleged hypersonic missile, but we have laid down very clear sanctions and other activities to push back on what Iran is doing in the region, again, to include their ballistic missile program."
State television in Iran says the missile - named Fattah, or "Conqueror" - has a range of up to 1,400 kilometers. That's just short of the aerial distance between Tehran and Jerusalem. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi described the new weapon as "an anchor of lasting security and peace" in the Mideast region.
The U.S. Treasury said Tuesday that new sanctions target seven individuals and six entities in Iran, China and Hong Kong that supply Tehran's missile program with "sensitive and critical parts and technology," including items such as centrifuges, often used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
The sanctions show "our commitment to respond to activities which undermine regional stability and threaten the security of our key partners and allies," said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. "The United States will continue to target illicit transnational procurement networks that covertly support Iran's ballistic missile production and other military programs."
Raisi boasted that the missile is entirely Iranian-designed and manufactured.
"This missile is a deterrent," he said. "Its power is an anchor of lasting security and peace for the regional countries."
But analysts say this is likely to only increase tensions.
"Regardless of whether the Iranian hypersonic missile works as intended, it nevertheless highlights the growing threat that Iran poses to the U.S. and its strategic interests in the Middle East," said Nicholas Carl, an Iran-focused analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
"Tehran has become increasingly aggressive in pursuing its regional objectives in recent years. Those objectives include attaining regional hegemony, destroying the Israeli state and expelling American forces from the region. And Iranian leaders have continually demonstrated their readiness to involve their growing missile capabilities in this more confrontational approach."
That said, Carl questioned whether the new weapon lives up to the hype. At the unveiling ceremony, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' aerospace branch, said the missile can destroy others' anti-missile systems.
"There is still a big question mark over whether Tehran actually can field the missile that it has described," he said. "Regime officials tend to often overstate their military capabilities."
Without a direct line between Washington and Tehran, other nations will need to play a role in reducing tensions. This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Saudi Arabia, a nation that very recently renewed its diplomatic ties with Tehran.
When asked by VOA about the implications of that, Kirby said: "If the Iranians opening up an embassy in Riyadh can help increase transparency of what they're doing and why - if it can de-escalate tensions, if it can lead to a reduction in their destabilizing behavior, including intercepting maritime shipping as they attempted to do over the last several days in the Strait of Hormuz - then all that's to the positive."
The United Nations is also watching. When asked by VOA on Tuesday whether the missile launch violates United Nations resolutions aimed at stopping Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary-general, said: "I don't have the data and information to opine on that. We do believe that Iran needs to live up to its commitments regarding Security Council resolutions."