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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Mar 03rd
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Iran Test-Fires More Missiles
Iran Test-Fires More Missiles PDF Print E-mail
Written by WSJ   
Friday, 11 July 2008


TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran test-fired more long-range missiles Thursday in a second day of exercises aimed at showing the country can defend itself against any attack by the U.S. or Israel, state television reported.

The weapons fired overnight have "special capabilities" and included missiles launched from naval ships in the Persian Gulf, as well as torpedoes and surface-to-surface missiles, the broadcast said. It didn't elaborate. A brief video clip showed two missiles being fired simultaneously in darkness.

The report came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iran that Washington will not back down in the face of threats against Israel.

"We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies," Ms. Rice said Thursday in Georgia at the close of a three-day Eastern European trip.

The Iranian missiles mark the latest in a series of conflicting signals from Tehran to confound U.S. officials. The Wednesday test appeared to be a response to Israel's reported trial run in early June for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. But it wasn't clear what message Iran wanted to send about recent United Nations efforts to jump-start nuclear talks. (Please see related articles on Iraq and the U.S. presidential campaign.)

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other Washington officials responded cautiously, stressing their desire to avoid a military conflict with Iran.

The test rattled oil markets Wednesday, sending crude prices higher, though they later retreated on news that U.S. gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly last week. Oil flowing through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entrance to the Persian Gulf abutting Iran, accounts for roughly 40% of all globally traded supply.

Last month, members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany offered new economic incentives in exchange for Iran freezing its uranium-enrichment activities. Top Iranian officials, such as Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, have suggested Tehran might accept the incentives as part of a new diplomatic track.

In another encouraging sign, the day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Wednesday that attacks involving Iranian-made rockets and mortars have fallen sharply.

Iran's shifting political factions, which include hard-line opponents of the U.S. and more moderate elements, sometimes make it hard to tell who is calling the policy shots in Tehran.

"Interpreting Iran's domestic debates is always a humbling business," said Undersecretary of State William Burns, the State Department's point man on Iran, addressing Congress. He said it's hard to tell where the recent nuclear overtures will lead, but "it is well worth the effort to explain and publicize what we are putting on the table."

Mr. Gates said the tests underscored the seriousness of Iran's long-range missile aspirations but did not bring the country any closer to a military confrontation with the West.

"I think what we're seeing is a lot of signaling," he said, adding that the administration would continue to pursue a "diplomatic and economic" approach.

Iran is currently conducting war games in the Persian Gulf, and U.S. forces just completed their own exercises there. The test-firings come amid a string of recent comments by Iranian officials that they would retaliate forcefully against any military attack on their nuclear facilities. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at producing energy for civilian use.

U.S. military officials recently described the Israeli military exercises in early June, saying they appeared to be practice for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities in the city of Natanz.

A senior Iranian official said earlier this week that Iran, if attacked, would retaliate against Tel Aviv and the U.S. Fifth Fleet, operating in the Persian Gulf and based in Bahrain. Iran would deliver a "crushing response," said Ali Shirazi, an aide to Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Iranian news agency ISNA.

Iranian officials have also warned they could retaliate against any attack by disrupting traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. The Persian Gulf is dotted with oil-producing platforms and crowded with tankers laden with crude bound for global markets. American commanders said their training exercise, which ended Tuesday, was aimed at countering threats against the Gulf's energy infrastructure.

Israeli officials responded to Wednesday's missile test by attempting to soften the tone of recent rhetoric. "Israel seeks neither conflict nor hostilities with Iran," said Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "But the entire international community must be concerned about the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic-missile program."

The White House called the development of ballistic missiles "completely inconsistent with Iran's obligations to the world." But it said in a statement from National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe that it remained "committed to a diplomatic path" with Iran.

Iran's response to the incentive package has been noncommittal. The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is expected to fly to Tehran to discuss the offer and Tehran's response later this month.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said the tests showed the need for diplomacy with Iran. "We have to make sure that we are working with our allies to apply tightening pressure economically on Iran at the same time as we start engaging in the kind of direct diplomacy that can lead them to standing down on issues like nuclear weapons," Sen. Obama said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Republican candidate Sen. John McCain said in a statement that "working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran," and he said the tests showed the need for missile-defense systems.

The U.S. and U.N. have slapped a series of economic sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt its nuclear program. The incentives now being offered to Tehran include help in developing Iran's civilian nuclear program and economic assistance.

Wednesday, Iran tested various missiles, rockets and torpedo launches, said Morteza Saffari, the naval commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. "The IRGC Navy is carrying out this maneuver to show it is fully prepared to counter any possible enemy aggression or adventurism," Adm. Saffari told state media.

--Chip Cummins, Jay Solomon, Cam Simpson, Louise Radnofsky and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Tit for Tat

AFP/Getty Images
Iran's television showed a large rocket fired Feb. 4.

Jan. 17 -- Israel tests a long-range missile, senior defense officials say, and reports indicate the missiles are able to be armed with nuclear warheads. Israel radio reports that the ground-to-ground missile, "Jericho-3," can carry conventional or non-conventional warheads.

Jan 21 -- Israel launches an advanced spy satellite able to track events in Iran.

Feb. 4 -- Iran tests the Explorer-1 missile, designed for placing into orbit the research satellite Omid (Hope). The satellite is expected to be launched -- from a new space center in the northern Iranian desert -- within a year of the test.

June 17 -- Israel's military sends warplanes over the eastern Mediterranean for a large military exercise that U.S. officials describe as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

[July 9]
AP Photo/Iranian TV via APTN
Iran's footage of the Shahab-3 missile launch Wednesday.

June 29 -- An Iranian military leader says he will shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil supply line bottleneck, if the U.S. or Israel attacks the country. Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, then the commander of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, says any attempt by Iran to seal off the strait would be viewed as an act of war.

July 6 -- Israel tests a new defense system designed to intercept rockets fired from southern Lebanon and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, public radio reports.

July 8 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismisses fears that Israel and the U.S. could be preparing to attack his country.

July 9 -- Iran test-fires nine long- and medium-range missiles at the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Oil prices jump initially on the news, before backing off later in the day.

July 10 -- Iran tests additional long-range missiles, saying they have "special capabilities" and include missiles launched from naval ships in the Persian Gulf, as well as torpedoes and surface-to-surface missiles.

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