Iran Test-Fires Missiles Ahead of Nuclear Talks

Daily News Article   —   Posted on September 28, 2009

(from WSJ.com) AP – TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said it successfully completed two days of missile tests that included launching its longest-range missiles on Monday, weapons capable of carrying a warhead and striking Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe.

State television said the Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran’s missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles, which can fly up to 1,200 miles. It was the third and final round of missile tests in two days of drills by the Guard.

The Sajjil-2 missile is Iran’s most advanced two-stage surface-to-surface missile and is powered entirely by solid-fuel, while the older Shahab-3 uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel in its most advanced form, which is also known as the Qadr-F1.

Solid fuel is seen as a technological breakthrough for any missile program as solid fuel increases the accuracy of missiles in reaching targets.

The war games come at a time when Iran is under intense international pressure to fully disclose its nuclear activities. They began Sunday, two days after the U.S. and its allies disclosed that Iran had been secretly developing an underground uranium enrichment facility and warned the country it must open the site to international inspection or face harsher international sanctions.

Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, said Sunday the drills were meant to show Tehran is prepared to crush any military threat from another country.

The revelation of Iran’s previously secret nuclear site has given greater urgency to a key meeting on Thursday in Geneva between Iran and six major powers trying to stop its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Alex Vatanka, a senior Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s, said Tehran was conducting missile tests now “to show some muscle, show some strength, and say the game is not over for Iran yet.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she doesn’t believe Iran can convince the U.S. and other world powers at the upcoming meeting that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, as Tehran has long claimed. That puts Tehran on a course for tougher economic penalties beyond the current “leaky sanctions,” she said.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said the missile tests had nothing to do with the tension over the site, saying it was part of routine, long-planned military exercises.

Iran also is developing ballistic missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead, but the administration said last week that it believes that effort has been slowed. That assessment paved the way for U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to shelve the Bush administration’s plan for a missile shield in Europe, which was aimed at defending against Iranian ballistic missiles.

Iranian state media reported tests overnight of the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles, with ranges of 185 miles and 435 miles respectively. That followed tests early Sunday of the short-range Fateh, Tondar and Zelzal missiles, which have a range of 120 miles, 93 miles and 130 miles respectively.

Iran’s last known missile tests were in May, when it fired its longest-range solid-fuel missile, Sajjil-2. Tehran said the two-stage surface-to-surface missile has a range of about 1,200 miles — capable of striking Israel, U.S. Mideast bases and southeastern Europe.

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.  Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  Visit the website at wsj.com.

Questions

1. After two days of missile tests what locations did the Iranian government say their longest-range missiles are able to reach?

2. How is Iran’s most advanced Sajjil-2 missile powered?

3. What is the significance of the fuel used to power the Sajjil-2?

4. What was the purpose of Iran’s recent missile tests, according to the head of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force, Gen. Hossein Salami?

5. What claim made by Tehran (the Iranian government) does Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say she doesn’t believe?

6. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the missile tests had nothing to do with the tension over their nuclear site. Iran has been putting off the international community for years as it proceeds with its nuclear program. It has now tested missiles that could reach Israel and others. The next step is to successfully develop ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads. The U.S., Germany, and the 4 other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will meet with Iran on Thursday. As they have for the past 7 years, Iran will deny that their nuclear program is intended to develop nuclear weapons and refuse to end the program.
All believe Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons and use them on at least Israel. Debates continue on whether Iran is one or several years or more away from reaching their goal.
How should the U.S. and others respond at this point to the Iranian government’s denials and refusals to end their nuclear program? Be specific.

7. Can the international community really stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and persuade it to end its nuclear program?


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Background

BALLISTIC MISSILE:
A ballistic missile is a missile that follows a sub-orbital ballistic flightpath with the objective of delivering one or more warheads (often nuclear) to a predetermined target. The missile is only guided during the relatively brief initial powered phase of flight and its course is subsequently governed by the laws of orbital mechanics and ballistics. To date, ballistic missiles have been propelled during powered flight by chemical rocket engines of various types. (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistic_missile)

NOTE ON THE U.S. MISSILE-DEFENSE SYSTEM:
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground-based and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The SDI was intended to defend the United States from attack from Soviet ICBMs by intercepting the missiles at various phases of their flight.  The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD), that assumed that neither side would start a nuclear war because it would not be able to avoid imminent destruction. Reagan’s “Star Wars” program drew the Soviets into a costly effort to mount a response. The race depleted Soviet funds and triggered the economic difficulties that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Resources

Read about Iran’s Sajjil missiles at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sajjil.

Read an article from three years ago “U.S. Military Sees Iran’s Nuke Bomb 5 Years Away” at
studentnewsdaily.com/daily-news-article/us_military_sees_irans_nuke_bomb_5_years_away.