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Iran fires dozens of missiles at mock US base in military drill

Ongoing exercise underlines Iran’s ‘offensive intentions,’ says ex-Shin Bet chief — and hence the imperative to halt its nuclear weapons drive

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp celebrate after a missile launch in July 2012 (AP/IRNA, Mostafa Qotbi)
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp celebrate after a missile launch in July 2012 (AP/IRNA, Mostafa Qotbi)

Iran’s current missile exercises, timed to coincide with Tuesday’s start of low-level talks in Istanbul on its nuclear program, underline the regime’s “offensive intentions” and the consequent imperative to prevent it from attaining nuclear weapons, Kadima Knesset member Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet intelligence service, said Tuesday.

Tuesday is the second day of the three-day “The Great Prophet 7” exercise, during which the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has test-fired dozens of short-, medium- and long-range rockets as part of a major drill aimed at simulating attacks on foreign targets, Iran’s IRNA news agency said.

The drill has involved firing a range of missiles, including the Shihab-3 missile which can reach Israel and southern Europe, at a dummy enemy base built to resemble US military bases in the Persian Gulf, Israel Radio reported.

Iranian state TV showed video of several missiles being launched.

“So far, we have launched missiles from 300 to 1,300 kilometers (180 to 800 miles) in the maneuver,” said Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Guard’s aerospace division. He hinted that some missiles had an even longer range.

Israel is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away from Iran’s western borders, while the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian commander quoted by Fars said Iran used both unmanned and manned bombers in the war games and was firing a variety of other missiles. Tehran says the drills aim to assess the accuracy and effectiveness of its warheads and weapons systems.

IRNA said the missiles targeted and destroyed mock positions of “ultra-regional forces” set up in a desert region in central Iran.

The range of missiles being tested included some that Iran has supplied to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel Radio said.

Dichter described Iran as “a regional power — not only in terms of oil resources, but also in weapons development.” It constitutes “a threat to Israel, but not only to Israel,” he said. Israel was developing the appropriate missile defense capabilities, he added.

The Iranian regime is “attack-moded” in its orientation, he said. That’s why there is such acute concern over what use it might make of nuclear weapons if it attained them, and that’s why the international community has to thwart the Iranian nuclear ambition.

Speaking two days after new EU oil sanctions against Iran came into effect, Dichter said the Iranian regime would have to explain to its 90 million people “why its economy is in such difficulties.”

On Sunday Revolutionary Guards general Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that the three-day missile exercise should be seen as a message “that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to… bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly.”

“If they take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth,” said Hajizadeh, evidently referring to Israel.

Hajizadeh also said Iran has produced an anti-radar missile called “Arm” that can hit any source of radar. He said the weapon could travel at several times the speed of sound, had an estimated range of 300 kilometers, and could “damage” missile shields in Turkey and Gulf countries.

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