Confrontation escalates between Iran and Israel
Iran tested the Shahab-3 missile, which could hit Israel or US Mideast bases.
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"The photographs released today indicate that they fired old Shahab missiles, the kinds they launched in 1998," says Mr. Rubin. "I think that the main consumer for this launch is the Iranians themselves…. Why should we respond? What is really new here? This is just saber rattling."Skip to next paragraph
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The tests come against a backdrop of increasingly incendiary rhetoric from all sides but also signals of moderation and willingness to negotiate.
"We warn the enemies who intend to threaten us with military exercises and empty psychological operations that our hand will always be on the trigger and our missiles will always be ready to launch," Iran's Revolutionary Guard air forces commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, said Wednesday.
He said Iran had thousands of missiles ready to launch at "specific and predetermined targets," and that the exercise would "demonstrate our resolve and might against enemies who in recent weeks have threatened Iran with harsh language."
Senior officers also warned this week that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf bottleneck through which 40 percent of the world's oil passes, even though Iran's shaky economy also depends on continued oil sales.
On Tuesday an aide to Iran's supreme religious leader told naval units that "the Zionist regime is putting White House leaders under pressure to stage a military strike against Iran," said Ali Shirazi. "If they do such a stupid thing, Tel Aviv and the US Navy [in the Persian Gulf] will be set on fire as Iran's first targets."
Israeli ministers have likewise declared that Israeli military strikes could be "unavoidable" if Iran's declared nuclear program makes any more progress on centrifuge technology. Iran says its efforts are for peaceful energy production; US, Israeli, and some Western officials say Iran aims for an atomic bomb.
"The United States is frankly unlikely to start anything with Iran for the rest of the Bush administration, but at the same time, almost for that reason, the Israelis are really getting very bothered and it's certainly possible that they might do something," says Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford in Britain.
Israel probably sees two "windows of opportunity" closing, he says: the first, the deployment in Iran of new Russian air defense missiles in as little as two months, that could increase the risk to Israeli pilots; and second, the end of the Bush era.