JIM LEHRER: Iran test-fired its most advanced missiles today. The move demonstrated Iran’s ability to strike targets as far away as Europe, and it increased tensions over its nuclear program.
We begin our lead story coverage with this report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Launched in the Iranian desert, the Shahab-3, a long-range missile developed by the Revolutionary Guard to hit more distant targets. The test doesn’t breach international law, but Russia has joined the U.S. now in expressing condemnation of this show of strength three days before talks in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s mid-range missiles can reach up to 1,300 kilometers, potentially threatening Saudi Arabia, Israel, and U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. The improved Shahab-3 and Sejjil can reach up to 2,000 kilometers, as far as Southern Europe.
The Iranian government says it’s all about deterring an attack by Israel.
GEN. AHMADI VAHIKI, defense minister, Iran (through translator): Definitely. If that happens — which of course we don’t predict — the last gasp of the Zionist regime would only come more quickly. The days of its transient life, which are already numbered, would end very soon.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The minister was visiting a new defense factory. The U.S., backed by its allies, is demanding that Iran’s newly exposed underground site be monitored by international nuclear inspectors. Satellite pictures from 2005 show a military complex northeast of Qom. Four years later, two tunnel entrances have been developed, suggesting these pictures show the secret enrichment facility.
Anti-government protests in Tehran today as the university reopened. In the past, the U.S. and Europe feared that sanctions would be counterproductive, helping rally people behind the Iranian government. But with so much discontent on the streets following June’s disputed elections, some now believe stronger sanctions could weaken the government even more.