TEHRAN, Iran – Iran test-fired dozens of missiles, including one that could reach Israel, in military maneuvers Thursday that it said were aimed at putting a stop to the role of world powers in the Gulf region.
The display of military power came as Iran remains locked in dispute with the West over its nuclear program, and just three days after U.S.-led warships finished naval exercises in the Gulf that Tehran branded as "adventurist."
State television reported that several kinds of missiles were tested — including the Shahab-3, a missile with a range that could reach the Gulf — and showed footage of the missiles being launched from desert sites.
Believed to be based on North Korean technology, the Shahab-3 has a range of 1,242 miles and could easily be used to target Israel or U.S. troops stationed in the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Gulf.
"We want to show our deterrent and defensive power to trans-regional enemies, and we hope they will understand the message," the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said in a clear reference to the United States, Britain and France, who were among the six nations that took part in the Gulf maneuvers earlier this week.
Iranian state radio said: "The maneuver is aimed at providing security in the region without the intervention of trans-regional powers, which are trying to justify their presence by portraying the region as convulsive."
In Israel, Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he was not surprised by the missile tests, and warned that to leave Iran unchecked would pose a risk to the world.
"Iran is following a direct line after North Korea. Therefore this problem is not Israel's but that of the entire world," Ben-Eliezer said referring to North Korea's recent nuclear test and its frequent launches of long-range missiles.
The Iranian missile tests "should bother not only Israel. It should bother the Arab countries, Islamic countries, the Gulf region, North Africa and Europe. We are always warning the world about this phenomenon called Iran," he said.
Iran has already held three large-scale military exercises this year. It often uses maneuvers to test weapons developed by its arms industry.
Gen. Safavi, whose elite Revolutionary Guards conducted the missile tests, said the maneuvers that began Thursday, named "Great Prophet," would take place in the Gulf, the Sea of Oman and several provinces of Iran. He did not specify how many troops were involved.
State TV reported that among the rockets fired was the Shahab-2, which has a warhead that can distribute 1,400 bomblets at the same time.
State radio quoted the air force chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hossein Salami, as saying: "A large number of advanced missiles, different in range, warhead and kind, were successfully test fired at the same time."
The U.N. Security Council is considered imposing sanctions on Iran which has ignored demands that it cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce the fuel for nuclear reactors or material for bombs.
Iran insists it does not seek to produce nuclear weapons, but only to produce its own nuclear fuel.
The U.S.-led maneuvers that finished Monday focused on surveillance, with warships tracking a ship suspected of carrying components of illegal weapons. The nations that took part were Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.