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Iran Says New Weapon Can Close Strait Of Hormuz

August 05, 2008

Iran says it has "recently" tested a naval weapon that can destroy any vessel within a 300-kilometer radius, and the head of the Revolutionary Guards has said that Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz "easily and on an unlimited basis" if Iran is ever attacked.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said in Tehran on August 4 that the new weapon is "unique in the world" and that "no warship or vessel of the enemy will be safe within a 300-kilometer radius of Iran's borders" if it is used against them.

"This weapon is completely Iranian-built and, according to our information, no other country has used this technology before," Jafari said.

The claims come amid an ongoing standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at making nuclear bombs. Tehran, however, has always denied the allegation, saying its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.

There is no word yet on Tehran's response to the world powers' latest proposal of economic incentives in return for Iran's pledge to freeze uranium-enrichment activities. The latest informal deadline for Iran's "clear answer" to the proposal expired on August 2.

The United States and Israel have said they prefer to resolve the crisis diplomatically, but have not ruled out other options, including military action against Iran.

In an apparent response to such threats, Jafari said on August 4 that in case of a military strike on Iran it would use all possible means to respond.

Jafari said that although the enemy would seek a short war, Iran would "prolong it."

The IRGC chief also mentioned that Iran is capable of closing the main oil-export route in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and that it could block this important corridor if Iran came under military attack -- causing an extreme hike in world oil prices.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), roughly 40 percent of all seaborne oil traded in the world passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow water channel between Iran and Oman.

The EIA estimates that last month more than 15 million barrels per day of crude oil from Persian Gulf producers passed through the strait, and the majority went to Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Jafari said the Strait of Hormuz "is within the range of Iran's assortment of weapons" and Iran could close the trade channel for an unlimited period of time.

International military experts often cast doubt on the accuracy of Iran's military claims. AP quoted Israeli analyst Ephraim Kam as saying Iran always boasts "about their military weapons and their military capabilities and saying how unique they are, but they are usually just standard military weapons."

Doug Richardson, the editor of "Jane's Missile and Rockets" magazine, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the new naval weapon tested by Iran is probably a missile that it bought from Russia.

"I had a look through the different types of antiship missiles which exist in the world and there are not many [that have] a 300-kilometer range. We knew as far back as 2005 [that the Iranians] were buying a Russian antiship missile called Club and it is in that range category," Richardson says.

"So you'd think [that for] a planned purchase being announced in 2005, 2008 sounds about right for the hardware being delivered and now being flight-tested."

Iran claimed last month that it tested a new version of its Shahab missile with a range of 2,012 kilometers.

with agency reporting

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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