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Iran Test Fires Nine Medium-, Long-Range Missiles

An image grab from the Arabic-language Iranian TV station Al-Alam shows a Shahab-3 missile being fired
Iran says it has test fired nine long- and medium-range missiles "in response to threats coming from the United States and Israel."

State-run Press TV said the missiles were fired by a unit of the elite Revolutionary Guards from an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert and included a Shahab-3 missile, with a 2,000-kilometer range, which was carrying a conventional warhead weighing one ton.

The missile tests were part of Iran’s “Great Prophet III” war games by the missile and naval sections of the Revolutionary Guards, which Tehran says are aimed at improving combat readiness.

They come at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and just weeks after Israel held its own naval war games.

Iran continues to reject calls by the United States and European powers to halt its uranium enrichment program, which it says is solely for civilian purposes.

On July 8, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran would target Tel Aviv and the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf with its missiles if it was attacked over its nuclear program.

The United States immediately condemned the missile tests.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a "violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and completely inconsistent with Iran's obligations to the world."

Doug Richardson, editor of "Jane’s Missiles and Rockets" magazine, says that amid the escalating rhetoric on both sides, it’s important to remember that Iran’s missile program remains fairly rudimentary, when judged against its Western counterparts. (Read the full interview.)

The latest U.S. intelligence estimate indicates Iran stopped working on its nuclear warhead program years ago.

With a conventional payload, Richardson says the destructive power of a Shahab-3 missile would be comparable to what the Germans were using during their nightly rocket blitz of London six decades ago.

"You can use conventional high explosives, which would put it -- very ballpark -- in the performance of the German V-2 rockets that were fired at London during [World War II]," Richardson said. "And so if you wanted an idea of destructive power, the historical record of the V-2 attacks on London would give you a good idea."

Richardson says the Shahab-3 has an accuracy range no better than around 2.5 kilometers, meaning it cannot be used against moving targets like U.S. naval vessels. A city could be targeted, but not specific buildings.

He says at last count, Iran was believed to have some 30 to 50 of the missiles.