Iran said it tested a new solid-fuel missile today capable of hitting targets in southeastern Europe and Israel, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, May 18).
"Defense Minister (Mostafa Mohammad Najjar) has informed me that the Sajjil 2 missile, which has very advanced technology, was launched from Semnan and it landed precisely on the target," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, according to state radio. The Iranian leader reportedly delivered the remarks in Semnan, a city roughly 125 miles east of Tehran.
The Sajjil 2 missile is a land-based weapon capable of traveling up to 1,200 miles, according to AP. Last year, Iran indicated it had test-fired its original Sajjil missile, which has a comparable range (see GSN, Nov. 12, 2008).
Observers in Israel and elsewhere worry that Iran's nuclear program could produce weapons that might one day be placed on missiles (see GSN, May 19). Tehran says its atomic activities are strictly civilian in nature and that its missile operations are solely a means of defense (Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, May 20).
"Our concerns are obviously based on their nuclear ambitions and the implications that long- and medium-range missiles have with respect to that," U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
"Iran is at a bit of a crossroads. They have a choice to make," he added. "They can either continue on this path of continued destabilization of the region or they can decide that they want to pursue relationships with countries in the region and the United States that are more normalized."
A U.S. defense source told Reuters that the launched missile was similar in appearance to an existing Iranian weapon.
"It looks to be the same as the Ashura model," the official said "It's consistent with that look" (Morgan/Gray, Reuters, May 20).