Iran unveils drone amid Israel tensions
TEHRAN — Iran has tested anti-air and anti-ship missiles and unveiled a new drone, its powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Monday, in a show of military readiness for a war with Israel their chief says is inevitable.
Medium-range surface-to-air missiles designed to knock attacking aircraft out of the sky at a range of 50 kilometres (30 miles) were successfully fired on Monday, the Guards said in a statement on their official Sepahnews website.
The new, Taer-2 missiles were part of an anti-air defence system known as Ra’ad (Thunder), the statement said.
The Fars news agency called the domestically made missiles “more advanced” than the Russian-made Buk family of missiles they were based on.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Guards’ navy, also said that on Sunday a naval drill was held in which four missiles hit a warship-sized target, sinking it in 50 seconds, according to Fars.
“We have missile systems that cover all the Persian Gulf coasts and the American bases (in the region),” he was quoted as saying.
He added that the Revolutionary Guards would in the next six months hold “big naval manoeuvres in the Strait of Hormuz,” the strategic, narrow channel at the Gulf’s entrance through which a third of the world’s seaborne traded oil passes.
Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Guards’ aerospace division charged with missile defence, also announced a new drone, dubbed Shahed 129, with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles).
“It is able to carry bombs and missiles… it has the ability to fly non-stop for 24 hours, it does surveillance,” Fars quoted him as saying. State television showed images of the unmanned aircraft.
On Saturday, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said war between Iran and Israel “will eventually happen, but it is not certain where and when.”
It was the first time a senior Iranian official had acknowledged the probability of war breaking out between the two arch-foes.
Israel in recent weeks has ratcheted up its threats to possibly launch air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, with or without help from its US ally.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commanders have said they would view any Israeli attack as being carried out with US authorisation, and warned they would hit US military bases in Afghanistan, Qatar and Bahrain in retaliation.
Hajizadeh told Iran’s Al-Alam television network on Sunday that an Israel-Iran war would be unpredictable — “and it will turn into World War III” as other countries were sucked into it.
The disconcertingly bellicose language from the Revolutionary Guards contrasted with the stated position of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, which has publicly dismissed Israel’s threats as a bluff.
Ahmadinejad, in New York for a UN General Assembly, reiterated that stance in interviews with US media.
“While the Iranian people are ready to defend ourselves, I don’t believe the (Israeli) threats are of fundamental importance,” he told US media bosses in a meeting on Monday.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole though undeclared nuclear weapons state, views Iran’s nuclear programme as a threat to its existence and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has strongly intimated he could order strikes against Iranian facilities.
Iran has repeatedly denied Western suspicions it is seeking nuclear weapons capability, insisting its atomic programme is exclusively for peaceful, civilian uses.