Iran test fires 14 missiles capable of reaching Israeli, US targets

The missile launch kicked off 10 days of war games. Iran also unveiled underground ballistic missile silos that the West suspects are for launching nuclear warheads.

Raouf Mohseni/Mehr News Agency/AP
In this photo, Iranian revolutionary Guards personnel, foreground, watch the launch of a Zelzal missile during military maneuvers outside the city of Qom, Iran, Tuesday, June 28, 2011. A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander claimed on Tuesday that his country has the ability to produce even longer range missiles than those currently in its arsenal.

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Iran fired 14 missiles and unveiled underground ballistic missile silos today, kicking off a series of war games over the next 10 days. Some of the missiles, launched today, have a range of more than 1,200 miles – enough to reach Israel and American installations in the region, Iranian PressTV reports.

Longer-range missiles are not likely to be built because all of Iran's desired targets are already in reach with its current missiles, said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division.

“We possess the technology to build missiles with longer ranges but we do not need missiles with a range of more than 2,000 kilometers and we do not intend to produce them,” Mr. Hajizadeh said from the sidelines of the drills, which are known as Great Prophet 6. “Iran's missiles have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers and have been designed for US and the Zionist regime [Israel]'s bases in the region."

The war games demonstrate Iran's emerging capabilities amid a nuclear stand-off with the West, which is concerned that the Islamic republic is developing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear power program. Iran denies such allegations, insisting its nuclear program is solely for energy purposes.

Hajizadeh attempted to reassure other countries that Iran posed no threat, adding that the US and Israel were only targets because they threatened Iran. Reuters reported that Hajizadeh said that Iran had no intention of building missiles capable of reaching Europe.

The message of the drill is that "our strategy is defensive, but our tactics are aggressive," said Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard, according to a separate PressTV report.

The provocative military exercises come on the heels of meetings this weekend in Tehran between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his counterparts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have received billions in US aid. The Wall Street Journal characterized the summit as part of a broader Iranian push to boost its influence in the region as the US scales back operations in Afghanistan.

The Afghan and Pakistani presidents, visiting Tehran, discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "many issues… that might come up after the NATO military force goes out of Afghanistan," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview here Sunday.

"The three presidents were very forthcoming in carrying out the cooperation and contacts so as to make sure things will go as smoothly as it could," he said.

That was a jab at Washington, which is increasingly in competition with Tehran for influence in the region, particularly as popular rebellions have surged across the Middle East and North Africa since January.

Western news organizations have previously reported "sketchy evidence" of missile silos, which store missiles vertically so that they can be launched quickly toward predetermined targets and also protect the missiles from attack, according to The New York Times. Monday's unveiling bolsters those reports, the paper said.

The missiles and silos concern the West because it suspects that Tehran is developing them in order to launch nuclear warheads, Agence France-Presse reports.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that by becoming more powerful and increasing its defense capabilities, Iran was improving the peace, security, and stability of the region, reports the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

In his weekly press briefing, Mehmanparast said that if the regional countries were powerful enough to defend themselves, the Zionist regime of Israel would never dare to attack and occupy their territory.

Now that the West is concerned about Iran's power to defend itself, it means that they cannot pursue their interests easily in the region, said the spokesman.

Iran has been emboldened by what it considers American military defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan and sees the US bases in the two countries as easy targets, Reuters reports.

"The Americans have reduced our labors," Hajizadeh told Fars, according to Reuters. "Their military bases in the region are in a range of 130, 250 and maximum 700 km in Afghanistan which we can hit with these missiles."

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