Thursday, February 08, 2007

Iran Test-Fires Russian Air Defence Missiles

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have successfully test-fired a new Russian-made air defence missile system, whose delivery last month sparked bitter US criticism. The test-firing of the surface-to-air missiles, on the first of two days of war games by the Guards' air force and naval divisions, comes amid mounting tensions with the West over the Iranian nuclear programme. Iranian state television showed several missiles from the TOR-M1 system being fired in the desert from mobile vehicle launchers and then successfully taking out their targets in the sky. "We have successfully test-fired the new modern TOR-M1 defence system, within the framework of the Revolutionary Guards defence doctrine based on a military strategy of deterrence," Revolutionary Guards air force commander Hossein Salami was quoted as telling the ISNA news agency. "The Iranian armed forces have added the new missile system to its defences to consolidate its defence capabilities," he said. Russia only completed the delivery of the missiles in January. Tehran and Moscow in 2005 signed a contract for the purchase of 29 TOR-M1 missile systems estimated to be worth 700 million dollars. The United States had urged Russia to cancel the sale, saying it was a mistake when the UN Security Council had imposed sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile industry as part of measures against its nuclear drive. "We don't think that it's an appropriate signal to be sending ... particularly when they are under UN sanctions for trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and when they continue to be in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions," deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said in January. Russia has significant economic interests in Iran and succeeded in watering down the December Security Council resolution against Tehran, limiting it to targetted sanctions against the Iranian nuclear and ballistics industries. Salami said that the "agile and very accurate" TOR-M1 system has a 12 kilometre (7.2 mile) range that could be increased to 20 kilometres (12 miles). "The TOR-M1 is capable of confronting small aircraft, aircraft with high manoeuvre and speed abilities and cruise missiles, and in less than a second it is ready to spot and be launched again," he said. "This system can hit targets accurately and is able to immune itself against diversions carried out by radars and be successful in electronic war." Iran's leaders have repeatedly said the country's armed forces are ready for any eventuality in the current standoff with the West over its nuclear programme. Although the United States has said it wants the standoff solved through diplomacy, Washington has never ruled out military action to thwart Iran's atomic drive. The United States accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, a charge vehemently denied by Tehran which insists its atomic programme is peaceful in nature.