TEHRAN – War games this month showcased missiles with improved accuracy and firing capabilities, Iranian media reports said Friday, an apparent response to stepped up Western moves against Iran's nuclear program.
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards conducted the exercise in the central desert, firing ballistic missiles including a long-range variety meant to deter an Israeli or U.S. attack. The targets were models of foreign military bases, and the stated goal was to show that Iran's missiles can hit Western bases and Israel.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Iran, aimed at persuading Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. The sanctions have hit Iran's economy, but its leaders have refused to scale down the nuclear program.
In the latest step, The European Union put a ban against purchase of Iranian oil in force on July 1. EU purchases accounted for 18 percent of Iran's oil exports.
Several Iranian news websites reported Friday that 90 percent of the missiles hit their targets and said this showed their increased accuracy.
Another achievement, the reports said, was Iran's capability of firing multiple missiles within seconds. The media reports said this would create a challenge for the U.S. or Israel to intercept incoming missiles should a war break out.
Iran has a variety of missiles. including a Shahab-3 variant with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) that can reach Israel and southern Europe. The missiles, which can carry a nuclear warhead, are also capable of hitting U.S. bases in the region.
Some of the missiles used during the war games used solid fuel, the reports said, improving the accuracy of the missiles.
The elite Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Division is in charge of Iran's missile program.
"Within 10 minutes, a considerable number of missile were fired at a single target. The achievement, called high firing density, makes it impossible for anti-missile systems to intercept and destroy them. In the end, the target is definitely hit," said a report on irannuc.ir.
Iranian news media are tightly controlled by the regime.
The Pentagon released a report June 29 noting significant advances in Iranian missile technology. The report was prepared before the latest Iranian missile tests.
The report to Congress, signed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, acknowledged that Iran has improved the accuracy and power of its missiles. Up to now, U.S. reports have downplayed the accuracy and effectiveness of Iran's missiles.
Iranian lawmaker Ismaeil Kowsari, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, said Iran has upgraded its missile deterrence.
"Our missiles are more accurate and lethal than ever," Kowsari told The Associated Press on Friday. "These achievements send clear signals to the West that Iran is a formidable force, making enemies think twice before making any decision to attack us."
Iran's Revolutionary Guard commanders said during the war games that the tests were a "response to the political impoliteness of those who talk about all options being on the table."
That was a reference to U.S. and Israeli hints of a military attack if diplomacy fails to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, aimed at producing electric power and radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, threatened earlier this month that Israel would disappear from the Earth if it attacks Iran. Israel considers Iran a dangerous enemy because of its nuclear and missile programs, support for violent anti-Israel groups and frequent references by its leaders to Israel's destruction.
Hajizadeh also warned that 35 American military bases in the Middle East are within Iran's missile range and would be destroyed within seconds after any U.S. attack on Iran.