Iran test-fires 14 missiles during military drills
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Tehran, Iran (CNN) — Iran has successfully test-fired 14 missiles during military drills, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday.
Following the unveiling of several missile silos Monday, Tuesday’s exercises are the second day of war games code-named the “Great Prophet Six.”
According to Iran’s IRIB news agency, the Islamic Revolutions Guards Corps fired three Shabab ballistic missiles and 11 Zelzal short-range missiles to test the missiles “‘precision, navigation and interceptive capability.”
Airing video of one of the facilities as it began a new round of military exercises, Iran announced Monday that it has built its first ballistic missile silos. The hardened, underground launch sites will allow Iranian commanders to fire missiles more quickly, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported. A military statement carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency said the silos were capable of launching long-range missiles.
Iran’s development of missile and nuclear fuel technology has led to U.N. sanctions and accusations from the United States that the clerical regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran says it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology, but the International Atomic Energy says it can’t verify whether Tehran’s nuclear program remains entirely peaceful.
The United States and the Soviet Union built more than 1,400 silos to protect their long-range missiles during the Cold War era.
In the Iranian statement, military spokesman Col. Asghar Ghelichkhani said the facilities were designed and built with domestic expertise.
Western observers say Iran currently has missiles capable of hitting targets up to about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away, a range that would cover nearly the entire Middle East and part of southeastern Europe. Iran also launched its first satellite in 2009.
US imposes economic sanctions on Iran Air
The US said Iran Air had “facilitated proliferation-related activities”
The US has imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s national airline, saying Iran Air had supported the Iranian military.
In a statement, the treasury department also said the airline had provided “material support and services” to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
It said the paramilitary group supported terrorism and committed human rights abuses against protesters.
The US accuses Iran of aiming to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its programme is wholly peaceful.
In addition, the US treasury department accused Iranian port company Tidewater Middle East Company of the Revolutionary Guard Corp of exporting arms and military equipment from the seven ports it operates in the country.
“Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a top US government priority and we remain deeply concerned about Iran’s nuclear intentions,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a joint statement.
Iran Air passenger planes have allegedly been used by the Revolutionary Guards to transport rockets and missiles – some of them to Syria.
Revolutionary Guard officers are said to occasionally take control of Iran Air flights with special cargo.
Iran Air doesn’t fly to the US and is unlikely to have any assets here, but Washington will also encourage other countries to shun the blacklisted companies and get airports around the world to stop refuelling Iran Air planes.
“The United States is committed to a dual-track policy of applying pressure in pursuit of constructive engagement, and a negotiated solution.”
Iran Air has faced US sanctions since 1995, preventing it from buying aircraft or spare parts from Boeing or Airbus.
Last year, the European Commission banned Iran Air jets from European air space, citing safety concerns.
The new sanctions mean no US company will be able to do business with Iran Air or Tidewater, and if the companies hold any assets in the US, those will now be frozen.
“The US and our partners remain fully committed to a diplomatic solution with Iran,” Mrs Clinton and Mr Geithner said.
“However, until Iran is prepared to engage seriously with us on such a solution, we will continue to increase pressure against Iranian entities of concern.”
OFAC Clarifies that Iranian Americans May Continue Flying on Iran Air
By the Asian Law Caucus
July 1, 2011, San Francisco, CA – On June 23, 2011, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury announced that it has added Iran Air to its “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List” (SDN List). The inclusion on the SDN list generally means that U.S. individuals – United States citizens and permanent residents and anyone who is “physically” in the United States – may not engage in financial and commercial dealings with Iran Air without first obtaining a specific license from OFAC.
In the past week, Asian Law Caucus (ALC) has worked closely with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) who requested and received responses from OFAC officials indicating that U.S. individuals may continue flying on Iran Air based on an underlying travel exemption. OFAC officials also confirmed that the recent designation prohibits nearly all other dealings with Iran Air and affiliates are illegal. Even though these statements may be subject to change and not legally binding, we are encouraged by this clarification and hope to work with OFAC and Iranian American organizations to mitigate the effect of sanctions on Iranian Americans.
The sanctions against Iran are complex and complicate many business, charitable, and family affairs of Iranian Americans. You should consult with an attorney or with OFAC if you plan to engage in any transactions involving Iran.
U.S. military sees Iran behind rising troop deaths in Iraq
The heightened danger underscores the volatile security situation in Iraq, amid ongoing debate here and in Washington about whether any U.S. troops should remain in the country.
June’s death toll was the highest since 15 troops died here in June 2009, according to iCasualties.org, a Web site that tracks U.S. military deaths. Fourteen of the deaths were combat-related, the highest since 23 soldiers and Marines were killed in action in June 2008, the site said.
During much of the insurgency that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, U.S. military commanders blamed Sunni-dominated terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq for many of the attacks against American troops. But as the U.S. military has adjusted its tactics, largely withdrawing from cities and improving its technological capacity to combat deadly roadside bombs and suicide attacks, officials say it has become far harder for loosely organized Sunni militias to strike out against the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops in the country.
Now, according to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, chief spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, the primary threat to the Americans comes from three Shiite militia groups operating in Iraq, which officials said they believe are being trained and equipped by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps special forces.
“All of them receive at least indirect support from elements in Iran,” Buchanan said in an interview this week.
In early June, what U.S. officials believe was a sophisticated rocket slammed into a joint Iraqi-U.S. military base in eastern Baghdad, killing six American soldiers in the deadliest single attack on forces here in more than two years. In addition, three U.S. troops were killed by roadside bombs in June.
Last week, an American contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development was killed when suspected Shiite militants attached a bomb to a car he was riding in near a Baghdad university. And Sunday, two U.S. troops were killed when an apparent armor-piercing grenade was lobbed at their vehicle.
Although the U.S. military did not release specifics on Wednesday’s attack pending notification of next of kin, officials familiar with the incident said the rocket was so powerful that it also wounded more than a dozen soldiers, several critically.
There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for that attack. However, Kataib Hezbollah, one of the Shiite militia groups mentioned by Buchanan, said earlier last month that it was responsible for the attack that killed six soldiers.
Buchanan said there is “no doubt” that Kataib Hezbollah “follows orders” from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, a highly specialized unit responsible for operations outside Iran. “Their leadership lives in Iran, they are directly trained by the Quds Force and they are supplied by them,” Buchanan said.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed similar frustration with Iran’s ties to the Shiite militias operating in Iraq. Iran is “facilitating weapons, they’re facilitating training, there’s new technology that they are providing,” Gates said. “They’re stepping this up, and it’s a concern.”
Buchanan said efforts to protect U.S. forces in Iraq are further complicated by rival Shiite militias that are vying to emerge as the dominant Shiite insurgency group in Iraq.
‘US accuses Iran of sending weapons to Iraq, Afghanistan’
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has armed Taliban, militant groups to better attack US targets, ‘Wall Street Journal’ report says.
US senior officials have accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military unit, of sending military weapons to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
According to the report, Iran supplied the Taliban in Afghanistan with weapons that have increased the insurgents capabilities of striking US troops and targets from a farther distance.
The accusation comes as tensions between Tehran and Washington continue to escalate. Last Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said that it would impose greater sanctions on Iran following its support for another ally in the region: Syria.
The report of arms shipments from Iran to groups engaging in military conflict with the US heightens the competition for influence in the region playing out between the US and Iran.
And despite US sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic last week carried out a large-scale military drill called “Great Prophet Mohammad War Games 6” to allegedly test out Iran’s defense capabilities as well as practice the use of advanced equipment.
Besides the US, different nations in the Middle East have expressed growing concern over Iran’s military aspirations and regional influence.
Israel last week expanded economic sanctions against Iran, following a controversy over the late Israel shipping tycoon Sami Ofer’s supposed trade with the Islamic Republic.
Israel has long claimed that Iran arms and funds Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two Islamist groups hostile to the Jewish State.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the sanctions were “an important step in the struggle against Iran’s nuclear program.”
Saudi Arabia also expressed concern over Iran’s military projects, including the contentious issue of nuclear arms development. A senior Saudi Arabian official said on Thursday “We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that.”
“If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit,” the official said.
Saudi Arabia has long been an opponent of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and as a Sunni Muslim country sees a Shi’ite Iran as an threat of influence in the region as well.
Saudi Arabia has frequently accused Iran of engaging in pro-Shi’ite activities in neighboring Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon.