Thursday, July 10, 2008

CNN: Iran Claims More Missile Tests

Posted with permission:

CNN) -- Iran test-fired more missiles overnight, Iranian news media reported Thursday, one day after it tested a long-range Shahab-3 and other missiles in the Persian Gulf region.

Iran test-fired missiles overnight, Iranian media said Thursday, near the Persian Gulf.
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The tests came only hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States is determined to prevent Iran from threatening its interests or those of its allies.

At a news conference in the Georgian capital of Tblisi, Rice said the United States has been working with allies to "make certain that they are capable of defending themselves" against any threat from Iran.

"We take very strongly our obligation to help our allies defend themselves and no one should be confused about that," Rice said. Watch Rice comment on Iranian missiles »

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has said that the missiles involved in Thursday's test were medium and long-range.

The Iranian news agency Fars said the launches, near the Persian Gulf, were a continuation of Wednesday's maneuvers and that the missiles hit their targets successfully.

Iran's Press TV said a "Hoot" torpedo was among those tested. "The maneuvers have also included IRGC scuba divers and marines who conducted practice assaults with speedboats on hypothetical enemy targets," the station added. Watch Iran's latest test-firing of missiles »

Two year ago a report by Jane's Information Group, which provides information on defense issues, described the "Hoot" or Whale as a sonar-evading underwater missile that Iran had said was "one of the fastest in the world" and "able to outpace warships."

World powers, which have long suspected that Iran is intent on building nuclear weapons, have offered economic and other incentives to Iran in exchange for the suspension of its enrichment program.

Iran accuses Israel of trying to destabilize the republic; Israel has not ruled out military action to halt Iran's nuclear aspirations.

There are fears that Israel, which has long been concerned that Iran wants to attack the Jewish state, is pondering a unilateral strike against the Islamic Republic.

"If Washington and Tel Aviv are foolish enough to even consider attacking Iran, our initial response would be to target Israel and set U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf ablaze," Ali Shirazi, an aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tuesday.

The Shahab-3 missile has a range of about 2,000 km, putting all of Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and the Arabian peninsula within striking distance. From Iran the missile's reach extends from southern Russia to the Horn of Africa, from south-eastern Europe to Nepal. See where Iran's missiles could strike »

Zelzal and Fateh missiles were also tested Wednesday during a military exercise called The Great Prophet III, described as a "joint maneuver" by guard corps naval and ground forces in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz region.

The Iranian exercises come a month after an Israeli military drill in the eastern Mediterranean involving dozens of warplanes and aerial tanks. It was seen as a message that Israel has the capability to attack Iran's nuclear program.

Israel issued the same reaction Thursday that it did to Wednesday's missile test. "Israel seeks neither conflict nor hostilities with Iran, but the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of concern for the entire International community."

Israel was due Thursday to display an advanced aircraft that is capable of spying on Iran. Israel's Army Radio told CNN that the Eitam airplane is a "practical answer" to recent Iranian "threats."

But Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) -- which manufactures aircraft for both military and civilian use -- said the exhibit is not linked to Israel's recent "tensions" with Iran.

Rather, the airplane is being shown near Ben Gurion International Airport, southeast of Tel Aviv, because it will be at the prestigious Farnborough International Air Show in southern England next week, an IAI spokeswoman said. Watch

The plane, a Gulfstream G550 business jet that has been modified with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems, is already part of the Israeli Air Force's fleet.

In her speech Thursday, Rice said that a missile defense shield the United States hopes to create in Eastern Europe would be another way to head off any threat from Iran.

"These are all elements of America's intention and determination to prevent Iran from threatening our interests or the interests of our friends and allies, and I don't think the Iranians are too confused, either, about the capability and the power of the United States to do exactly that," she said.

Rice encouraged Iran to "get on the right side of the international community" by accepting a package of incentives put forward by China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- as well as Germany.

Iran "ought to be talking about that, not about threats against America or threats against America's allies because frankly it's not going to do them any good."

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, speaking after Wednesday's tests said Iran's "missile capacity is just for defensive purposes, to safeguard peace in Iran and the Persian Gulf region."

The minister added that "our missiles will not be used to threaten any country, they are only intended for those who dare attack Iran."

In 1981, Israel, which itself is believed to have nuclear weapons, attacked a nuclear facility in Iraq. Israel also struck a site in Syria this year that some say was a nuclear reactor under construction.

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