Sunday, August 20, 2006

Iran Test-Fires 10 Short-Range Missiles

Nasser Karimi, The Washington Post:
Iran test-fired 10 surface-to-surface short-range missiles on Sunday, a day after it launched a series of large-scale military exercises throughout the country, state-run television reported. The Saegheh missile had a range of between 50 and 150 miles, the report said. It did not specify whether the missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, but it was not believed to be.

State-run television said the missile was built based on domestic know-how, although outside experts say much of the country's missile technology originated from other countries.

Iran said it launched the new military exercises Saturday to introduce a new defensive doctrine.

"We have to be prepared against any threat and we should be a role model for other countries," local newspapers quoted army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, as saying earlier this week.

The military exercises come as Iran faces heightened international scrutiny because of its contentious nuclear program and for supporting the guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution last month calling for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment by Aug. 31 or face the threat of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Iran, which claims its nuclear program is peaceful, has rejected as "illegal" the binding resolution, saying it had not violated any of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. But it promised to offer a formal response to a package of Western incentives on Tuesday.

Iran also has denied Israeli accusations it is arming and training Hezbollah fighters but also has declared Hezbollah victorious in its battle against the Jewish state.

The Islamic Republic is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. It also has expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities.

Iran already is equipped with the Shahab-3 missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. An upgraded version of the ballistic missile has a range of more than 1,200 miles and can reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Last year, former Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Tehran had successfully tested a solid fuel motor for the Shahab-3, a technological breakthrough for the country's military.

Iran's military test-fired a series of missiles during large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf in March and April, including a missile it claimed was not detectable by radar that can use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously. READ MORE

State-run TV also reported that a small military training plane had crashed on Sunday. The plane was not participating in the military maneuvers, the TV said, stating the crash was due to technical failures and the only pilot in the plane parachuted to safety.