Iran has test-fired what it claims is an improved version of its Sejil 2 medium-range missile, Wednesday, amid ongoing tension with the West over its nuclear program.
State television showed video of the Sejil 2 missile launch Wednesday, calling the test a success. The Sejil 2 has a range of about 2,000 kilometers, making it capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in southeastern Europe.
Defense Minister Ahmed Vahidi says the Sejil 2 is intended to defend the country against outside attack.
He says that the missile which tested Wednesday, is part of Iran's defensive forces, and that the test is intended to reinforce the deterrent capabilities of [Iran's] military. He says that the missile was built by Iranian scientists and is an upgraded version of the Sejil 2 [launched last May]. He adds that the newer version has a shorter launch time, better deterrent capability, and that it is a two-stage rocket using solid fuel that is highly maneuverable.
Both the test-firing and the sanctions vote come in the midst of an ongoing conflict between Iran and the West over its nuclear program. Tehran has not, as yet, agreed to the terms of a UN-draft deal to trade 70 percent of its low-grade uranium for highly enriched uranium from France and Russia.
The head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the country's Press TV, Wednesday, that "Iran prefers to procure the fuel (for its research) reactor through the (International Atomic Energy) Agency, .but, we can't afford to wait for long."
Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS center in Tel Aviv says that the Sejil 2 missile is nothing for the West to worry about. He says it is more a sign that it's taking the military option seriously, now that negotiations with the West appear to be faltering:
"There's nothing new about this rocket that should worry the West," he noted. "Iran has already tested solid fuel missiles before and Israel is already within the range of Iran's missiles. I think it's the political implications of this missile test that are noteworthy-and that is that Iran views the (nuclear) talks as dead-it doesn't view the talks positively, and now it's bracing for sanctions and quite possibly for war, and this missile test is a sign that Iran takes the military option very seriously and is ready to reciprocate if it's attacked."
Such tests, he adds, may also be aimed at frightening other countries in the region, like the Gulf States, or southern European nations that have U.S. or other Western bases on their soil, and might be involved in the logistics of an eventual attack.
President Barack Obama has said that the United States will not "wait indefinitely" for a response from Iran over the U.N. draft nuclear deal.
Iran's test-firing, comes a day after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impose sanctions on companies providing refined gasoline to Iran. Tehran is a major oil-producing country, but has just one domestic refinery, forcing it to buy much of its gasoline from abroad.