New ballistic missile site raises tensions in Iran

Located in the Iranian town of Shahrud, situated northeast of Tehran, satellite imagery of the site shows a nearly complete launch facility, replete with launch pad and tower, a pre-launch zone and a command and control section, according to Reuters. 

Tehran claims the new launch site is one of three facilities Iran is constructing to test and launch a new array of space satellites. 

However, "imagery analysis of the Shahrud site suggests it will be a strategic facility used to test ballistic missiles, leaving the other two sites free to handle Iran's ambitious program of satellite launches," Matthew Clements, editor of Jane's Intelligence Review, told Reuters

Revelations of the Shahrud site comes days after 76 senators called upon the Obama administration take a harder line to stop Iran’s nuclear program, including weighing possible military options. 

Conservative lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), as well as prominent Democrats, including Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.) demanded Obama to "bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process.”

"Iran needs to understand that the time for diplomacy is nearing its end," they said in a letter sent to the White House earlier this month. 

Iran’s regime insists its nuclear enrichment efforts are geared toward energy development and not weaponization. 

Washington and its allies argue the Iranian program clearly puts the country on the path to developing nuclear arms.

However, the White House has remained dedicated to a strategy of economic and political sanctions to bring Iran's nuclear program to heel. 

That said, the Pentagon has already drafted up plans for possible military action against Tehran, should the administration's strategy fail to stop Iran's nuclear program. 

However, Defense Department leaders continue to back the White House's approach of diplomatic and economic pressure to halt Tehran's nuclear work.