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US Says Iran's Missile Tests Do Not Make Conflict More Likely

, VOA, Pentagon

Shahab-3 test firing in 2006

U.S., Israel 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.
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 Pentagon.

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 Black Sea.

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 made.

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.

US Lawmakers Worried by Iranian Missile Tests
, VOA,

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 ballistic missiles.

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 been impaired."

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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