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Iran Seeks Image of Defiance With New Missile Tests

Iran has test-fired its most advanced missiles, demonstrating its ability to strike targets as far away as Europe, and increasing tensions over its nuclear program. Analysts break down the details of the development.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    In Washington today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Iran's decision to test-fire missiles was "provocative."

    Now, Judy Woodruff continues our lead story coverage.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on Iran's missile tests, we turn to Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Michael Elleman, a former United Nations missile inspector who's now a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    Thank you both for being with us.

    I'm going to start with you, Michael Elleman. These missiles tests, what more do we know about them?

    MICHAEL ELLEMAN, former United Nations Missile Inspector: Well, we know very little other than the Iranian proclamations. They have not released videotapes of these specific tests, so we don't know how successful they might have been. But, nonetheless, it is a continued effort by Iran to develop the systems, and the development tests appear to be going on schedule.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So how much beyond what was known about Iran's capability does this represent? How much of an advance is this?

  • MICHAEL ELLEMAN:

    Well, it's not an advance at all, in terms of the Shahab-3. They've been testing this missile since 1998. They've been making incremental improvements to the system, but they have not, you know, developed a new capability with regard to their liquid propellant systems. The Sejjil test is the fourth test that they've conducted.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    This is the other missile.

  • MICHAEL ELLEMAN:

    The solid propellant system, which in the longer term has greater consequence, but as of right now it's not a deployable system. It's simply in its first years of development. It's at least a couple years away from being deployed.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    At least a couple of years away.

  • MICHAEL ELLEMAN:

    Yes.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And how much of this was this a surprise to the United States?

  • MICHAEL ELLEMAN:

    I don't think it was a surprise at all. My understanding is that these military exercises had been planned in advance. The question as to whether they had actually planned to launch these strategic missiles — or strategic for Iran — that might have been a surprise to some.

    But we would be expecting these tests. They seemed to be doing them about twice a year. And this would be on schedule, the last tests having occurred in May.