Iran starts "biggest" air defence war games against Israel, USA
Reuters - Wednesday, November 17
TEHRAN - Iran began what it said was its biggest ever air defence drill
on Tuesday to test its ability to deter air strikes, which the United
States and Israel have not ruled out to prevent it from developing
The website of Iran's English-language Press TV said the five-day war
games were being held near nuclear facilities and included tests of
On Sunday, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards said
land forces had carried out military drills near Iran's nuclear
facilities "exactly like real combat."
Western countries suspect Iran's atomic work is a cover for a nuclear
weapons programme. Tehran denies this, saying it needs nuclear
technology to generate electricity.
Israel, which says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its
existence, and its ally the United States have refused to rule out
pre-emptive strikes against Iran, but U.S. Defence Secretary Robert
Gates argued strongly against the military option on Tuesday.
"The large-scale military manoeuvres ... will improve readiness to
confront possible threats to Iran's air space and the very populated,
vital and nuclear centres," Ahmad Mighani, head of an air force unit
that responds to threats to Iran's air space, was quoted by state TV as
Iran has repeatedly announced advances in its military capability to
show it is ready to respond to military aggression.
Some Western officials suspect Iran is developing more sophisticated
missiles and carrying out well-publicised missile tests so that it can
deliver a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic Republic denies this, saying its missile development
efforts are for defensive purposes only.
Iran said earlier this month that it had developed a home-made version
of the Russian S-300 missile system and would soon test-fire it.
Moscow supported a fresh round of U.N. sanctions against Iran in June,
and then refused to deliver an order of S-300s to Iran after persistent
lobbying by Israel and the United States.
The S-300 is a mobile, long-range air defence system that can detect,
track and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and low-flying
Tehran has been hit by various international sanctions for refusing to
halt its uranium enrichment activities. Uranium can be enriched to
produce fuel for nuclear power plants or, if enriched to a higher
level, to make atomic bombs.