U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says
Wednesday's Iranian missile tests provide further evidence of the need for a
European missile defense system, but he says the tests do not make military
confrontation with Iran any more likely. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the
and Iran: Who is threatening who?
By Ali Moayedian
Iran has been conducting war games - code-named "Noble Prophet" - in
Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz. As part of these exercises,
Iran test-fired some 9 medium and
long range missiles
on Wednesday. Not surprisingly this generated huge amount of
noise and "concern" by U.S. government officials.
Secretary Gates indicated that the Iranian test demonstrated enhanced capability
for the country's Shahab Three missile, but he said he could not provide
details. Previous versions of the missile are believed to have a range of about
2,000 kilometers, enough to reach from western Iran to the western shore of the
Secretary Gates says the test provides evidence to support the U.S. view that
Europe needs a system to defend against Iranian missiles.
"This certainly addresses the doubts raised by the Russians that the Iranians
won't have a longer range ballistic missile for 10 to 20 years," said Robert
Gates. "The fact is they just tested a missile that has a pretty extended range.
So, my view, in the first instance, is we've been saying, as we've talked about
missile defense in Europe, that there is a real threat. And it seems to me that
the test this morning underscores that."
On Tuesday, Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice and her Czech counterpart signed an agreement to place an
anti-missile radar installation in the Czech Republic. Talks with Poland for an
anti-missile launch site appear to have hit a new snag, but a Pentagon official
says "rather intense discussions" are continuing and "good progress" is being
Iran's missile tests were accompanied by sharp rhetoric. The chief of Iran's
Revolutionary Guards said the country's missile arsenal is ready to be fired at
"any time, quickly and with accuracy," and that "enemy targets are under
surveillance. On Tuesday, another Iranian official said Israel and U.S. warships
in the Persian Gulf would be targeted if Iran is attacked.
Asked whether those statements and Wednesday's missile tests make a military
confrontation with Iran more likely, Secretary Gates said he does not think so.
"There is a lot of signaling going on," he said. "But I think everybody
recognizes what the consequences of any kind of a conflict would be. And I will
tell you that this government is working hard to make sure that the diplomatic
and economic approach to dealing with Iran, and trying to get the Iranian
government to change its policies is the strategy and is the approach that
continues to dominate."
The concern about Iran's missiles is intensified by its effort to develop
nuclear weapons, an effort the United Nations Security Council members and
Germany are trying to convince Iranian leaders to abandon.
Lawmakers Worried by Iranian Missile Tests
Iranian missile tests have provoked widespread
criticism in the U.S. Congress, where lawmakers called them provocative and
urged stronger U.S. and international pressure on Tehran. VOA's Dan Robinson
reports, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told a
congressional panel the United States and its allies are committed to maximizing
diplomatic efforts on the Iranian nuclear issue.
A previously-scheduled hearing on U.S. policy toward
Iran coincided with news that Iran's Revolutionary Guard forces test fired a
barrage of missiles including the long range Shahab-3.
The White House condemned the launches, with a National Security Council
spokesman saying Iran should refrain from further tests and cease development of
Undersecretary of State Burns used his testimony to reiterate the two-track
approach of the United States and its partners, combining economic and financial
sanctions with incentives:
"Our strategy is built on tough-minded diplomacy, maximizing pressure on the
Iranians at multiple points to drive home the cost of continued defiance of the
rest of the world, especially on nuclear issues," he said. "At the same time
we're trying to make clear to Iran and its people what they stand to gain if
they change course."
Potential threats to Israel from Iranian missiles were on the minds of Democrats
and Republicans, including committee chairman Howard Berman:
"We need look no further than today's news of an Iranian long-range missile
test, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload to Israel," he noted.
"This, coupled with the belligerent talk from Tehran of 'enemy targets' being
'under surveillance,' could not make it any clearer that we need to use every
diplomatic and economic tool available to steer Iran away from developing
nuclear weapons capability."
Here is Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen:
"As today's news reports clearly show, Iran already has short and medium range
missiles capable of reaching U.S. forces and allies in the region and is also
pursuing long-range ballistic missiles to enable it to reach Europe and possibly
the United States," she explained.
Illinois Republican Mark Kirk called on the G8 nations to impose a quarantine on
gasoline exports to Iran, which depends on fuel imports, and said the U.S.
should do more to protect Israel from Iranian threats:
"It's time for the United States to offer full ballistic missile defenses for
Israel. Democracies are best when they stick together," he said.
Congressman Gary Ackerman was among Democrats launching renewed criticisms of
the Bush administration over its reluctance to fully implement provisions of the
Iran Sanctions Act.
"The administration has never implemented the Iran Sanctions Act, even though
nearly 20 international companies and consortia have crossed the so-called red
line of investing $20 million in Iran's energy sector," he said. "That shows
them that the benefits are all there, but the costs are not to be paid."
Ackerman was supported by Republican Dan Burton who says more needs to be done
to impose and enforce stronger economic and investment sanctions:
"We haven't been putting pressure on them to stop doing business with Iran when
we say we're imposing every kind of sanction possible," he noted.
In his testimony, Undersecretary Burns reiterated long-standing Bush
administration policy that it is fully committed to diplomacy, repeating that
while on the table, the military option remains a last resort.
Burns provided this assessment of Iran's nuclear program:
"While deeply troubling, Iran's real nuclear progress has been less than the sum
of its boasts," he explained. "It has not yet perfected enrichment and as a
direct result of U.N. sanctions, Iran's ability to procure technology or items
of significant for its nuclear or missile programs, even dual-use items, has
At the same time, Burns says Iran still has not complied with U.N. Security
Council resolutions regarding its uranium enrichment, or answered questions from
the International Atomic Energy Agency about its past weaponization activities.
... Payvand News - 07/10/08 ... --
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