Iran flexes missile muscles

2012-01-02 13:41

Tehran – Iran said it had successfully test-fired what it described as two long-range missiles, flexing its military muscle in the face of mounting Western pressure over its nuclear programme.

The announcement came at the climax of 10 days of naval exercises in the Gulf, during which Tehran has warned it could shut the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of world oil is shipped, if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports.

Analysts say Iran’s increasingly strident rhetoric, which has pushed oil prices higher, is aimed at sending a message to the West that it should think twice about the economic cost of putting further pressure on Tehran.

“We have successfully test-fired long-range shore-to-sea and surface-to-surface missiles, called Qader (Capable) and Nour (Light) today,” Deputy Navy Commander Mahmoud Mousavi told state television.

Despite his use of the term “long-range”, the Fars news agency said the Qader’s range was only 200km, and no figure was given for the Nour.

Iran is about 225 km at its nearest point from Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, and about 1 000km from Israel. Its longest-range missile, the Sajjil-2, has a range of up to 2 400km.

Iran said today it had no intention to close the Strait of Hormuz, but has carried out “mock” exercises on shutting it.

“No order has been given for the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. But we are prepared for various scenarios,” state television quoted navy chief Habibollah Sayyari as saying.

The US Fifth Fleet said it would not allow shipping to be disrupted in the strategic waterway.

Tehran denies Western accusations that it is trying to build atomic bombs, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the Islamic state’s nuclear row with the West.

Israel played down the military impact of Iran’s announcement, saying Tehran’s forces were no match for the West’s in the Gulf.

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