U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed
that Iran has tested a medium range ballistic missile that can reach Israel,
southeastern Europe and U.S. bases in the Middle East. A Pentagon spokesman says
the test "is consistent" with U.S. concerns about Iran's effort to develop
ballistic missiles and its nuclear program.
Secretary Gates confirmed the Iranian test during an appearance before a House of Representatives committee.
"The information that I have read indicates that
it was a successful flight test," he said. "The missile will have a range of
approximately 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers. Because of some of the problems they've
had with their engines, we think, at least at this stage of the testing, it's
probably closer to the lower end of that range. Whether it hit the target that
it was intended for, I have not seen any information on that."
Iran says the test missile did hit its target.
Iran's ability to threaten U.S. allies in Europe
is a key motivation for the missile defense system the Bush Administration was
working on installing in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Obama Administration
has been reviewing whether it wants to proceed with the program. President Obama
says he wants to evaluate whether the system is technologically feasible and
cost effective, and whether the Iranian threat can be eased through diplomacy.
On Wednesday, Secretary Gates gave this insight into the review. "There is considerable interest, I would say, in the administration in pursuing the third [European] site," he said.
"But I would say there is also great interest, which frankly I've been working on for two years, to see if we can partner with the Russians and make this in effect a quadripartite effort of Poland, the Czech Republic, the Russians and ourselves," he added.
Secretary Gates said an existing Russian radar
could supplement the planned American system. But Russia has rebuffed previous
U.S. efforts to create a shared missile defense system, and strongly opposes the
American plan to install its own system in Europe. Gates says any deployment of
the U.S. system has been delayed by the fall of the Czech government before its
parliament ratified the relevant treaties.
Earlier Wednesday, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Iranian missile test tends to add credence to U.S. concerns about the potential Iranian threat to its neighbors.
"Iran is at a bit of a crossroad," he said. "They have a choice to make. They can either continue on this path of continued destabilization in the region, or they can decide that they want to pursue relationships with countries in the region and the United States that are more normalized. They have a choice to make."
President Obama is trying to engage
diplomatically with Iranian leaders, in an effort to settle differences over its
missile and nuclear programs, and other issues. After the latest test, his
spokesman confirmed that the president still believes it makes sense to do that.
But the president said this week that if he does not get a positive response by
the end of the year, he will reassess his policy.
Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, but U.S. officials disagree. Still, experts say while Iran is making progress in its missile program, the technology involved in putting a nuclear warhead on a missile is much more complicated.
... Payvand News - 05/21/09 ... --