By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Iranian media say the Islamic republic’s military has successfully test-fired a medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile capable of striking Iranian rival Israel.
Iran says the Shahab-3 has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. Israel is some 1,000 kilometers away from Iran.
The missile was tested as part of the “Great Prophet 7” military exercises that began on July 2 amid increasing Western pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, including a European Union oil embargo that went into effect on July 1.
The Fars news agency said that “dozens” of different types of missiles were fired from different parts of Iran at a single target in the Kavir Desert.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Republican Guards’ aerospace division, said the exercises had so far tested missiles with ranges of 300 to 1,300 kilometers.
Reports say the exercise targeted a replica military base set up in the desert and made to look like a foreign facility, similar to those the United States has in neighboring countries such as Afghanistan.
According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, the second-ranking official in the Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, said — in what’s seen as a clear reference to Israel and the United States — that the exercises were “a reaction to those who are politically discourteous to the Iranian people by saying ‘all options are on the table.'”
Washington and its ally Israel have repeatedly said that all options — including a potential military strike — remain on the table to respond to the Iranian nuclear program. The United States says, however, that it remains committed to the search for a diplomatic solution.
Turkey Meeting ‘Technical’
The Iranian war games were being held as experts from Iran and six world powers were expected to hold talks on the nuclear dispute in Istanbul on July 3.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said the Istanbul meeting was expected to be “essentially technical” in nature, and no breakthroughs were expected.
The gathering is apparently being held to evaluate whether there is enough common ground to return to full-fledged talks.
Three previous rounds of talks this year — in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow – between Iran and the six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States — have failed to ease the crisis over the nuclear dispute.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters on July 3 that, if the powers ignored Iran’s nuclear “rights” and failed to bargain on equal terms, the negotiations could lead to an “impasse.”
Mehmanparast reiterated Tehran’s message that Western sanctions — such as the EU oil embargo and U.S. measures targeting Iranian banks — would not coerce Iran into a change of position.
World powers suspect Iran’s nuclear program has military aims and have demanded Tehran stop enriching uranium, a process that could be directed for nuclear fuel or toward an atomic weapon.
Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.