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Author Topic: Iran missile tests: What they tell the West [article]  (Read 1616 times)


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« on: 28 September 2009, 21:40:43 »

Iran launches missiles September 28, 2009


Iran tested two mid-range missiles that can reach Israel and southeastern Europe Monday. The test will help the country perfect its ballistic technology.
By Peter Grier | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the September 28, 2009 edition

Washington - Iran's test Monday of its Shahab-3 and Sajil missiles has given the country a fresh opportunity to fine-tune missiles that can reach Israel, US forces in the Middle East, and even the southeastern part of Europe.

Iran has successfully tested these missiles in the past. But ballistic missile systems are difficult to perfect, and every firing teaches something to their developers.

"Anytime you successfully test a system it shows you have just a little bit more mastery over it," says Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association.

Iran conducted three rounds of missile tests, beginning last Sunday. The drills come at a time when tensions between Iran and the US and its allies have been heightened by disclosures of a secret Iranian uranium enrichment facility.

On Monday, Tehran capped the tests with successful launches of upgraded versions of the Shahab-3 and Sajil, according to Iranian state television. Both missiles can fly around 1,200 miles.

"Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran," said Abdollah Araqi, a top Revolutionary Guard commander, according to Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency.

The Shahab-3 is the older of the two systems. Iran has already deployed it in small numbers. It is based on North Korea's liquid-fueled (and notoriously inaccurate) No Dong intermediate-range weapon.

Iran has tinkered with the Shahab over the years, stretching its fuel tank within the missile body to increase its range. But some western experts believe Iranian scientists have reached the Shahab-3's improvement limit.

The Sajil is a different story. It is solid-fueled, meaning it would be easier to transport and hide, and could be erected and launched more quickly than any Shahab. Moreover, it bears little outward resemblance to any foreign missile – meaning it may be of indigenous design.

"Solid fuel missiles are better military weapons," says Mr. Thielmann, who served as proliferation expert with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the State Department before joining the Arms Control Association.

Iran successfully launched a Sajil variant for the first time only last year.

The tests, plus revelations about the new uranium-enrichment plant near Qom, give greater urgency to a key meeting Thursday between Iran and the six major powers trying to stop its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Firing missiles "sends the wrong signal to the international community at a time when Iran is due to meet" to discuss its nuclear activities, said Britain's Foreign Office on Monday.

• AP material was used in this story.


TEHRAN, Iran (Sept. 28) - Iran tested its most advanced missiles Monday to cap two days of war games, raising more international concern and stronger pressure to quickly come clean on the newly revealed nuclear site Tehran was secretly constructing.
State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran's missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance.
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The missile tests were meant to flex Iran's military might and show readiness for any military threat.
"Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran," said Abdollah Araqi, a top Revolutionary Guard commander, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Iran conducted three rounds of missile tests in drills that began Sunday, two days after the U.S. and its allies disclosed the country had been secretly developing an underground uranium enrichment facility. The Western powers warned Iran it must open the site to international inspection or face harsher international sanctions.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said the missile tests had nothing to do with the tension over the site, saying it was part of routine, long-planned military exercises.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was concerned about the missile tests. He said Iran must immediately resolve issues surrounding its second nuclear enrichment facility with the U.N.'s nuclear agency.
The newly revealed nuclear site has given greater urgency to a key meeting on Thursday in Geneva between Iran and six major powers trying to stop its suspected nuclear weapons program. Solana said those talks are now taking place "in a new context."
Britain said Monday's test further illustrates why Europe and the U.S. have serious concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions.
"This sends the wrong signal to the international community at a time when Iran is due to meet" the six world powers, Britain's Foreign Office said. The six nations are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she doesn't believe Iran can convince the U.S. and other world powers at the upcoming meeting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, as Tehran has long claimed. That puts Tehran on a course for tougher economic penalties beyond the current "leaky sanctions," she said.
The nuclear site is located in the arid mountains near the holy city of Qom and is believed to be inside a heavily guarded, underground facility belonging to the Revolutionary Guard, according to a document sent by President Barack Obama's administration to lawmakers.
Qashqavi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, identified the site as Fordo, a village located 110 miles south of the capital, Tehran. The site is 60 miles from Natanz, Iran's known industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant.
After strong condemnations from the U.S. and its allies, Iran said Saturday it will allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine the site.
Israel has trumpeted the latest discoveries as proof of its long-held assertion that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
By U.S. estimates, Iran is one to five years away from having nuclear weapons capability, although U.S. intelligence also believes that Iranian leaders have not yet made the decision to build a weapon.
Iran also is developing ballistic missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead, but the administration said last week that it believes that effort has been slowed. That assessment paved the way for Obama's decision to shelve the Bush administration's plan for a missile shield in Europe, which was aimed at defending against Iranian ballistic missiles.
The Sajjil-2 missile is Iran's most advanced two-stage surface-to-surface missile and is powered entirely by solid-fuel while the older Shahab-3 uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel in its most advanced form, which is also known as the Qadr-F1.
Solid fuel is seen as a technological breakthrough for any missile program as solid fuel increases the accuracy of missiles in reaching targets.
Experts say Sajjil-2 is more accurate than Shahab missiles and its navigation system is more advanced.
State media reported tests overnight of the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles, with ranges of 185 miles and 435 miles respectively.
That followed tests early Sunday of the short range Fateh, Tondar and Zelzal missiles, which have a range of 120 miles, 93 miles and 130 miles respectively.
Iran's last known missile tests were in May when it fired its longest-range solid-fuel missile, Sajjil-2. Tehran said the two-stage surface-to-surface missile has a range of about 1,200 miles -- capable of striking Israel, U.S. Mideast bases and southeastern Europe.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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