Iran vows retaliation to any attack with launch of medium-range missiles

By Reuters

Haaretz

Tevet 28, 5766

TEHRAN - Iran said on Saturday it would launch medium-range missiles if attacked and accused Britain and the United States of arming rebels in its south, as international pressure on Tehran over its nuclear plans grew.

"If we come under a military attack, we will respond with our very effective missile defense," Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guard, told state television.

Western states suspect Iran of secretly aiming to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists its nuclear facilities are intended to produce only electricity.

The United States and Israel have said they would prefer to solve the stand-off through diplomacy but have not ruled out a military strike.

Military experts reckon the Revolutionary Guard's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of some 2,000 km (1,200 miles), meaning Israel, U.S. bases in the Gulf and foreign troops in Iraq lie within their range.

Safavi repeated Tehran's allegations that Britain and the U.S. are arming rebels in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, which has most of Iran's abundant oil reserves.

"Occupying forces in Iraq, particularly those in the south, provide Iranian agents with material for bombing," he said. "British and U.S. intelligence services should avoid interfering in our affairs."

Bombs ripped through a bank and government building in Khuzestan on Tuesday, killing eight people.

A group fighting for the independence of Iran's Arab minority claimed responsibility but the claim could not be verified.

Defense analysts say Iranian ballistic missiles owe much to North Korean and Russian know-how.

"Iran produces its own ballistic missiles and does not draw on any foreign assistance for technology," Safavi said.

The Revolutionary Guard is a parallel military answerable directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.