Iran: Ballistic Missile Tests ‘Response to Threats’

Posted July 3rd, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Iran says it has successfully tested medium-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel in response to threats of military action against the Islamic Republic over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Official Iranian media quoted a leading officer in the Revolutionary Guards Corps Tuesday as saying the exercises included the Shahab 3 missile, which traveled distances of up to 1,300 kilometers. Shorter-range Shahab 1 and 2 and other missile classes were also tested during the last two days.

IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said the drills are a direct response to Iran's enemies who talk of a “military option being on the table.”

The West suspects Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, and Israel has hinted at an attack if diplomatic efforts and sanctions fail to eliminate what it sees as a direct threat. On Sunday, a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure Iran over its nuclear program went into effect.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that the United States has moved “significant military reinforcements” into the Persian Gulf to deter Iran from possible attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets in the region if the standoff over Iran's nuclear program continues.

Thirty-five percent of the world's seaborne oil currently passes through the strait.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby, said Tuesday the U.S. has eight minesweepers in the Gulf, which he said is “up from a few months ago.” He acknowledged the assault ship U.S.S. Ponce is in the Gulf, but played down assertions that the presence of additional assets there is a message to Iran. He said he has seen nothing to indicate unusual Iranian activity in the region.

Kirby told reporters the U.S. will maintain a strong security presence in the Middle East and that “our commitments remain firm to allies and partners there.”

He said about 40,000 American troops are in the region at any one time and that Iran's current missile testing is part of an annual exercise “that they've done before and we're not seeing anything provocative as a result of it.”

Iranian state television showed footage of several missiles being launched.

Israel is about 1,000 kilometers away from Iran's western borders. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, some 200 kilometers from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.