Teheran threatens to launch 11,000 rockets if attacked

Israeli expert dismisses claim as a reflection of Iranian insecurity; top nuclear negotiator Larijani resigns.

By MARK WEISS, AP
October 21, 2007 00:21
3 minute read.

Iran is capable of firing 11,000 rockets into enemy bases in the first minute after any attack, state-run television quoted a top Revolutionary Guards Corps commander as saying Saturday. Gen. Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, the missile commander of the Guards, said Iran has identified all enemy positions and was prepared to respond in less than a minute to any possible attack. "Enemy bases and positions have been identified... The Guards ground force will fire 11,000 rockets into identified enemy positions within the first minute of any aggression against the Iranian territory," the television quoted Chaharbaghi as saying. But Israeli missile expert Dr. Gerald Steinberg, head of Bar-Ilan University's Political Science department, dismissed the general's comments as "an extreme exaggeration." "There is a long history of similar Iranian claims and these latest comments reflect a significant amount of insecurity," Steinberg said, adding that if Iran expects to be taken seriously, these claims must end. Steinberg said that the "enemy" referred to is not Israel, but US forces in the area. "No one has 10,000 long-range missiles - that is an absurd claim," he said. Chaharbaghi did not specifically identify the bases or the enemy and did not refer to arch foes Israel or the United States by name. The US has 40,000 troops on various US bases in other Persian Gulf countries and 20,000 in Middle East waters. Another 160,000 US troops are in neighboring Iraq. Steinberg noted that the Iranian general's comments were clearly timed as a response to last week's remarks by US President George W. Bush warning that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped to prevent World War III. However, he said, such comments do not enhance Iranian deterrence. Tensions are high between Washington and Teheran over US accusations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and helping Shi'ite militias in Iraq that target US troops. Iran denies the claims. Washington has said it is addressing the Iran situation diplomatically, rather than militarily, but US officials also say that all options are open. Steinberg interpreted Saturday's resignation of chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani as a vote of no-confidence in the position of his own government, noting that Larijani was considered "someone who knows how the real world works." Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham did not give a specific reason for Larijani's resignation other than to say he wanted to focus on "other political activities." "Larijani had resigned repeatedly. Finally, the president accepted his resignation," Elham told reporters. Elham said Saeed Jalili, a deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, was to succeed Larijani, whose resignation was effective immediately. Elham stressed that Iran's nuclear policy would not change because of Larijani's resignation. "Iran's nuclear policies are stabilized and unchangeable. Managerial change won't bring any changes in [those] policies," Elham said. Larijani was considered a trusted figure within Iran's hard-line ruling Islamic establishment who replaced Iran's former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani, who was considered a moderate politician, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005. However, differences had recently emerged between Larijani and Ahmadinejad and his resignation is seen here as a victory for the hardline president on nuclear policy, giving Ahmadinejad a free hand in dictating his views on Jalili, a little-known diplomat. Larijani's absence during Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week further raised eyebrows in Iran's political circles. Before he was appointed, Larijani was the head of Iran's state-run radio and television network and was seen as one of the hard-liners' most effective weapon in curtailing former President Mohammad Khatami's reform program. At the time, Larijani used the official media as a weapon to suppress democratic reforms and prohibited broadcasting information that might have been harmful to hardline clerics. After Larijani was appointed to the negotiator post, Iran took a more defiant approach to its nuclear program. It resumed uranium enrichment activities leading to its referral to the UN Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2006. Iran's refusal to halt enrichment subsequently prompted a resolution by the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran in December 2006 and another resolution widening the sanctions in March. Larijani, in many cases, held a hardline view on the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West. In 2006, he rejected Western economic incentives in return for a suspension of Iran's nuclear activities, saying the Security Council "should not think that they can make us happy with candies." But Larijani was also considered to be a moderate figure than Ahmadinejad within Iran's hardline camp. He is seen to be more committed to a diplomatic solution over Iran's nuclear program while Ahmadinejad is not seen as favoring talks with the West over Teheran's nuclear activities.


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