President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presided over the annual ceremony marking the Iranian defence industry’s “national day”, which is often used to highlight advances in military technology and to persuade the world that the sanctions deployed against the country have failed to stop them.On this occasion, state media boasted of an upgrade to a short-range missile system, the Fatah-110. The two developments are a clear if veiled threat that any attack on its nuclear facilities by Israel or its ally America would be met with retaliation in the Straits of Hormuz and against American allies on the other side of the Gulf, the only likely target within Fatah’s range of about 200 miles.
The defence show followed renewed threats in Israel last week that it was on the verge of taking a unilateral decision to attack Iran’s nuclear sites before they are successfully buried beyond the reach of “bunker-busting” bombs.
President Ahmadinejad, despite recent comments that the “Zionist regime” was a cancerous tumour which would soon be “wiped out”, insisted that the new weapons being unveiled were defensive.
“Defensive advances are meant to defend human integrity, and are not meant to be offensive moves toward others,” he said. “I have no doubt that our defensive capabilities can stand up to bullying and put a halt to their plans.”
The new airbase will be 130 miles from Iran’s current main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in the centre of the country.
“If the enemy ever has the intent of attacking this soil, we will make the Persian Gulf their grave,” the local provincial governor, Mohammad Javad Askari, was quoted as saying.
Western analysts say that despite regular announcements they cannot judge with certainty the level of sophistication of Iran’s considerable missile arsenal, as technical details are rarely given, as on this occasion. The missiles, developed with help from North Korea among other anti-American allies, are a compensation for the poor quality of the air force, which has been damaged by years of sanctions.
However, there is no doubt that the arsenal is significant enough to do considerable damage to Iran’s neighbours, many of them Sunni-led, American-allied oil states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with a visceral hostility to Tehran.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and defence minister Ehud Barak, are said by Israeli media to be attempting to build a coalition in favour of an attack in cabinet, which under the country’s coalition government it does not currently have.
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