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Edward Yeranian | Cairo 20 August 2010
This photo released on 20 Aug 2010, by the Iranian Defense Ministry, claims to show the launch of the Qiam-1 liquid-fueled missile by Iranian armed forces, at an undisclosed location
Iran's defense minister Ahmad Vahidi is saying Friday that Tehran has test-fired a new surface-to-surface missile called the Qiam-1. The announcement comes amid a flurry of alleged new military developments in recent days, as Iran prepares to launch its new Bushehr nuclear plant Saturday.
Iranian government TV showed the test-launch of a new surface-to-surface missile Friday, which its defense minister is calling a "new class" of missile with increased capabilities.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi explains that the new Qiam-1 missile has many improvements over its predecessors.
He says that the Qiam-1 missile is a new class of solid-fuel missile and he claims that it is better than older missiles because it has a better guidance system and that it can be operated faster and under more varied circumstances. He also claims that the missile is capable of evading enemy interception.
Iranian TV showed the missile launch sequence at least five times from different angles from what appeared to be a desert location. Defense Minister Vahidi did not indicate when the test-firing actually took place, nor the exact range of the new missile.
The test-firing was hyped by state media, along with news about Saturday's launch of Iran's new Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said recently that any possible Israeli attack on the plant would have to come before it was launched.
Iranian-born analyst Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington argues that it's impossible to verify that the Qiam-1 is a new class of missile, and that Iran's decision not to provide many details about it suggest the launch is part of a psychological war with the West.
"When you consider the fact that in terms of technical information that we have available to say that this is actually a new class of missile - this is newsworthy - we don't have that," he said. "Which means that this is really a political gesture, posturing on the part of the Iranians, which they seem to believe is necessary, because overall they believe that they're involved in a big psychological war with the West and they're saying 'look, we can play a bit of this psychological war game, too.'"
Iranian defense industry officials have announced many alleged new weapons systems in recent days, amid great fanfare on Iranian TV. These alleged developments include a new and faster speedboat, new locally-built aircraft engines, a new drone, and new shallow-water submarines.
Iranian military commanders went so far recently as to show pictures of what they were calling "mass grave plots" in which to bury U.S. soldiers, in the event of an attack on their country. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also said during a speech Wednesday night that an attack would be countered on a variety of levels, and in different places.
Alex Vatanka thinks that the Iranians are trying to scare the West, along with many of their smaller Gulf neighbors, so that they do not participate in a possible attack on Iran.
"The Iranians have been saying it for years: anybody who is complicit in an attack on Iran in the eyes of Tehran is good to be hit," he said. "They didn't mention states by name, but they pretty much said, if you are providing a base for any American aircraft to take off and come and bomb us, your base, be it in Qatar, be it in Oman, is good for us to hit back."
Qatar, which shares a large gas field with Iran, has long tried to balance its relations with both Iran and the U.S. to which it leases the large al Udeid airbase, outside the capital Doha. Qatar's Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al Thani, was shown Friday on Iranian TV meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.