Iran test-fires missiles, shows secret silos


Iranian revolutionary Guards personnel watch the launch of a Zelzal missile during military maneuvers outside the city of Qom on Tuesday. (Raouf Mohseni/AP)
June 28, 2011

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is conducting a 10-day series of missile tests, including the firing of medium-range missiles at targets at sea, and it has revealed a previously secret network of underground missile silos, Iranian state media reported Tuesday.

The tests are a part of scheduled maneuvers aimed at strengthening Iran’s military doctrine of “asymmetrical warfare” in which the Revolutionary Guards would lead counterstrikes in case of an attack on Iran by the United States or Israel. The exercise is intended to send a message of “peace and friendship” to regional countries, state media reported.

However, Revolutionary Guard commanders said that if “provoked,” Iran could hit Israel, as well as U.S. bases and warships, with missiles fired from deep inside the country.

“America has made things easier for us by stationing its garrisons and camps in neighboring countries,” Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards’ Aerospace Forces, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “We can attack all American facilities in the region by these missiles.”

In addition to bases in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has a presence in Bahrain and Qatar, and an aircraft carrier group routinely plies the waters of the Persian Gulf.

But Iran is not planning to attack anyone, commanders told reporters.

“Of course we will not begin any operation, but our reactions will be solely defensive,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, told the semiofficial Fars News Agency. “Our fingers are still on the triggers. Only the number of triggers has increased.”

Salami explained that Iran is tracking and observing the movements of its “enemies” in the region. “We have the power to execute preventive and swift, retaliatory mass missions on all enemy targets,” Salami said.

On Monday, state television aired a report on a visit to an underground missile site containing Iran’s most powerful rocket, the Shahab 3. The camera crew was flown in a private jet to an unknown destination in Iran, then driven for hours to the site in a windowless van, according to the report.

State television quoted unidentified colonels as saying Iran began building a network of such silos across the nation 15 years ago.

“All missile-launching silos are programmed and prepared to launch against pre-planned targets,” one of the colonels said, stressing that the sites could not be detected by satellites.

During similar missile tests in 2008, the Revolutionary Guards doctored images of a multiple missile launch when one of the rockets turned out to be a dud.

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