Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iran test-fires medium-range Sejil-2 missile

Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a show of strength aimed at demonstrating that the country won't be pushed into concessions in its nuclear standoff with the West.

The test of the medium-range Sajjil-2 fueled demands in the West for tougher sanctions against Tehran, which has resisted U.N. demands that it rein in its nuclear ambitions. Iran touted the launch as a success proving it can deter any U.S. or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities.

"This is a matter of serious concern to the international community and it does make the case for us moving further on sanctions. We will treat this with the seriousness it deserves," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said after talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon in Copenhagen.

Britain's Foreign Office said Iran has the "clear intention to extend the range of its missiles," calling the launch "the wrong signal to send when the international community is trying to find a diplomatic solution." Wednesday's test was the third for the Sajjil-2 since it was unveiled in May. The missile has the longest range of any in Iran's arsenal, about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) - putting Israel, Iran's sworn enemy, and U.S. bases in the Gulf region well within reach, as well as parts of southeastern and eastern Europe.

Iran has dramatically accelerated its domestic missile program in recent years, part of a bid to depict itself as a military and technological power and reduce its past reliance on purchases abroad. The missile program has raised deep concerns in Israel and the West, though experts are skeptical over some of Iran's claims of advances.

A U.S. government official downplayed the technological significance Wednesday's Iranian missile test, calling it relatively routine and suggesting it did not represent any new capabilities. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the missile test publicly.

But equally important is the political message, said Washington-based security analyst Alex Vatanka. "One signal is very clear - they are saying Iran will not negotiate with the West from a position of weakness. They are saying: If you think sanctions and threats are something to worry us, then you are mistaken," said Vatanka, with the intelligence analyst group Jane's.

"The message from Iran today is that Tehran can do more, Iran's arm is long," he said. Iran has repeatedly warned it will retaliate with attacks on Israeli nuclear sites or U.S. bases in the region if either country carries out military strikes against its nuclear facilities. The U.S. and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, and Israel - which is believed to have its own nuclear arsenal - has not ruled out military action to stop Iran's program.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on the latest missile test. Iran denies seeking a warhead, saying its program is intended solely to generate electricity.

Nuclear negotiations have been deadlocked for months, with Iran equivocating over a U.N.-drafted deal aimed at removing most of its low-enriched uranium from the country so it would not have enough stockpiles to produce a bomb. The U.N. nuclear watchdog last month sharply rebuked Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, and Washington has warned that Iran is running out of time to accept the deal or face new sanctions.

State television broke the news in a one-sentence report declaring that the test was a success, accompanied by a brief clip showing the missile rising from the launch pad in a cloud of smoke. Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi vowed that the Sajjil-2 would be a "strong deterrent" against any possible foreign attack. He said the new version can be fired more quickly and flies faster than previous ones making it harder to shoot down, though he did not give further details.

"Given its high speed," he said, speaking on state TV, "it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability." The two-stage Sajjil-2 and is powered entirely by solid-fuel while the older Shahab-3 missile, with a similar range, uses a combination of solid and liquid fuel. Solid-fuel missiles are more accurate than ones using liquid fuel. They are also a concern because they can be fueled in advance and moved or hidden in silos.

The Sajjil-2 was first tested in May. Iranian officials touted it as a breakthrough over the Sajjil-1 unveiled months earlier, saying the new missile had a more sophisticated navigation system. The Sajjil-2 was tested a second time in September. The name "Sajjil" means "baked clay," a reference to a story in the Quran, Islam's holy book, in which birds sent by God drive off an enemy army attacking the holy city of Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay.

Iran's first missiles were based on help from North Korea, but since then Iran has progressed on its own, improving range and accuracy, Vatanka said. The fear in the West is that it will be able to produce intercontinental, three-stage missiles, which can reach more than 3,500 miles (5,500 kilometers), putting much of Europe in its reach. "If you look back at what Iran has invested in terms of manpower and funding, the missile systems program is only second to Iran's investment in the nuclear program," Vatanka said. Fitting a nuclear warhead onto the missiles takes considerably greater technology, he said, adding, "I don't really think there is evidence to point they have this."

Iran probably has up to 300 Shahab missiles, while the Sajjil remains in the test phase so it is "not yet in the inventory," said James Lewis, a senior defense expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Currently "it's not a sophisticated program," Lewis said, but "they've been putting a lot of money and effort into this program for more than a decade, and we have to take their claims seriously. What is worrying is what targets are they thinking about."


The included photo is from a previous launch.

yes, photo is from a previous launch.

Is Iran really violating any international law by testing these missile? Then why is so much noises on their testing of a missile?

I agree!! every country has missile's at their aresenal and they have right to protect their country!! When Israel talk about bombing Iran's sites no one complains!!! Such double standards of UK and US.

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