IDF keeps an eye on Iranian maneuvers

Defense officials decline comment after Teheran test-fires short-range missiles.

August 21, 2006 02:49
2 minute read.
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The IDF is "closely following" the ongoing military maneuvers in Iran, a senior officer said Sunday. The military refused, however, to issue an official comment on the new Iranian missiles presented during the exercises. Iran test-fired 10 surface-to-surface short-range missiles on Sunday, state-run television reported. The missile testing came a day after Iran launched a series of large-scale military maneuvers geared at testing the country's new defensive doctrine. "Saegheh, the missile, has a range of between 80 to 250 kilometers," the television said. It said the missile was tested in the Kashan desert, about 250 km. southeast of Teheran. Saegheh means "lightning" in Farsi. State television did not specify whether the new missile was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, but it is not believed to; only the Shahab-3 missile is believed to be capable of carrying a warhead. State-run TV also reported that a small military training plane had crashed on Sunday. The plane was not taking part in the military maneuvers, the TV said, stating the crash was due to technical failures. The broadcast said the plane was making an emergency landing on a highway in northeast Teheran when one of its wings hit a water reservoir and it burst into flames and crashed. The television said the only pilot in the plane parachuted to safety. The crash was the latest in a string of plane accidents the Iranian government has blamed on US sanctions, arguing that they have prevented the country from repairing and replacing its aging fleet. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has supplemented its fleet of Boeing and European-made Airbus airliners with planes bought or leased from the former Soviet Union. Iran routinely holds war games to test the military equipment it builds at home since the US ban was enforced, and the army has held war games with equipment such as missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers. But the new tests, in the wake of the Lebanon-Hizbullah fighting against Israel, seemed certain to create new tensions with the West. The Iranian military said the maneuvers reflected the current level of tension in the Middle East. "We have to be prepared against any threat, and we should be a role model for other countries," local newspapers quoted army spokesman Gen. Muhammad Reza Ashtiani as saying earlier this week. He said the military maneuvers - called "The Blow of Zolfaghar," in reference to a sword that belonged to Imam Ali, one of the holiest figures of Islam for Shi'ites - were aimed at "introducing Iran's new defensive doctrine." State-run television said the new missile was built based on domestic know-how, although outside experts say much of the country's missile technology originated from other countries. State-run TV showed video showing 10 missiles being launched from mobile launching pads. Iran said its military exercises launched Saturday are being held in 14 of the country's 30 provinces and could last as long as five weeks. The Islamic Republic is concerned about the US military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. It also has expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities, which the West contends could be used to make a bomb but which Iran insists are for civilian uses only. Iran is already equipped with the Shahab-3 missile, which means "shooting star" in Farsi, and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. An upgraded version of the ballistic missile has a range of more than 2,000 km. and can reach Israel and US forces in the Middle East.

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