During its face off against Israel and the U.S. about its uranium enrichment program, Iran has often talked tough. But now it's backing up that talk with missile drills. On its second day of the country's ten-day "Great Prophet 6" war games on Tuesday, Iran's Revolutionary Guards fired 14 Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles simultaneously at a single target, according to the country's official IRNA news agency. Meanwhile, Western analysts are scouring the coverage for clues to the nettlesome nation's military might.
For one thing, we're getting a sense of what's behind all this muscle flexing. Reuters calls the military exercises a "show of strength" aimed at Israel and the U.S. The Iranians, according to Al Arabiya, claim the drills represent a "message of peace and friendship to countries of the region" and are defensive in nature, enabling Iran to retaliate in the event of airstrikes, which the U.S. and Israel haven't ruled out as a way to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. "The range of our missiles has been designed based on American bases in the region as well as the Zionist regime," Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Guards' aerospace division told the semi-official Fars news agency. Indeed, Hajizadeh added that Iran has the technology to produce even longer range missiles but won't do so because Israel and U.S. bases are already within reach. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Guards, sounded even more threatening: "We still have our fingers on the trigger, but the number of the triggers have increased." Here's some of the footage Iranian state TV is playing this week:
What missiles is Iran testing? On Tuesday, Reuters notes, the Guard fired nine Zelzal missiles (pictured above), two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and a modified version of the Shahab-3, which Iranian officials say can reach targets up to 1,250 miles away, putting Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf (plus parts of southeastern and eastern Europe, though Iran says Europe shouldn't worry) within reach. The only other revelation from the exercises appears to be that the Guards have built new underground ballistic missile silos, which store ready-to-launch missiles vertically and can't be detected by satellites. The AP photo below shows one of the Shabab-3s launched today:
This AP photo shows Guard members standing near a Shabab-1: