Iran fires medium-range missile, says it showed downed US drones to Russian officials


The Islamic Republic’s state media reported the Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Tuesday fired a medium-range weapon capable of striking Israel or US targets in the Gulf.

On Monday the Guards said they began missile drills to maintain readiness for possible air strikes, which the United States and Israel have refused to ruled out as a means to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran said the exercises are a “message of peace and friendship to countries of the region” and are not directed against any country.

The Guards' aerospace commander, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, insisted Iran's missile program posed no threat to European nations but was intended to provide defense against Israel and US forces in the Gulf.

"Today, on the second day of the exercise, we fired ZelzalsShahabs 1 and 2, and the Ghadr ," a medium-range missile that is a modified version of the Shahab-3, General Hajizadeh told Iranian state television.

"Iran's missiles have a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and are designed to reach US targets in the region and the Zionist regime," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

In February, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari announced that the the country had begun the mass production of a recently developed anti-ship ballistic missile.

While Western governments fear Tehran is developing a ballistic capability to enable it to launch atomic warheads, Tehran denies any such ambition.

Shot down US drones

Meanwhile, Iran says it has shown Russian officials drones belonging to the United States that Iranian forces shot down over the Gulf, General Hadjizadeh said on Tuesday.

“Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering,” the official IRNA news agency quoted General Hadjizadeh as saying.

General Hajizadeh did not elaborate on the number or type of unmanned aircraft it had shot down, or when or where it had done so.

Iran announced on January 2 that its forces had downed two drones after they violated Iranian-controlled territory. It later said it would put the aircraft on public display.

“The planes that were shot down are among the most modern US navy drones and have a long-range capability,” the Fars news agency quoted the commander of the Guards’ naval forces, Ali Fadavi, as saying at the time.

The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, just across the Gulf from Iran. Washington has never confirmed that Tehran had shot down any of its drones.

The US military and Central Intelligence Agency routinely use drones to monitor military activity in the region. They have also used them to launch missile strikes in Yemen, as well as in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.

On several occasions, the Iranian military has shown off drones it says it manufactured using the latest technology. The Obama administration has expressed concern about Tehran’s possession of the aircraft.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: dina.ibrahim@mbc.net)