By FARNAZ FASSIHI
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images An Iranian short-range missile launched during a second day of military exercises.
BEIRUT—Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps launched several days of drills Monday to test missiles capable of hitting targets as far away as Israel, one day after the European Union put into effect its planned embargo against Iranian oil.
The three days of war games in the north-central desert area of Semnan province, dubbed the Great Prophet 7, were reported by official news agencies. They are aimed at testing the precision and efficiency of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' warheads and missile system, the reports said.
Iran routinely conducts military drills. The continuing crisis in Syria, Iran's closest ally in the Arab world, and the near-failed nuclear talks with the West could potentially make Iran vulnerable for a military attack.
A new round of technical meetings is scheduled in Turkey this week between Iran and six counterparties who are aiming to curb what they say are Iranian steps toward building nuclear weapons. But there is little expectation of a breakthrough between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, or P5+1. During the last rounds of talks in Moscow in June, both sides acknowledged a large gap between their visions for a possible deal. Iran contends its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
Both Israel and the U.S. have said a military option is on the table.
In this week's drills, dozens of domestic ballistic missiles will be fired at 100 land and sea targets modeled after foreign bases belonging to "extra regional powers," official media reports said. Bomber drones and aircrafts will also be used, reports said.
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' airspace unit, said Monday that Iran wouldn't "sit idly" as the U.S. and Europe built a missile-defense shield program that could target Iran, according to IRNA, the official news agency. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is pursuing plans for a Europe-based shield that would guard against Iranian missiles.
Iran would unveil a new ballistic missile, called Arm, which Gen. Hajizadeh said has the capacity to detect and hit radar bases. Arm is capable of hitting NATO targets in Turkey, enemy ships in the Persian Gulf and Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system, he said.
Gen. Hajizadeh also said the Revolutionary Guards' electronic experts had successfully decoded all the classified information in the U.S. RQ-170 drone that went down inside Iran in December. Iran was currently using this intelligence and had begun building a drone modeled after its American counterpart, he said.
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The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment.
Gen. Hajizadeh also dismissed the threat of military strikes against Iran. He said the U.S. wouldn't go along with this scenario because its bases in the region are "right under the reach of our missile and weapons."
He also said Israel doesn't have the capacity to mount a unilateral attack on Iran, and if it did, Iran would act. "If they [Israelis] make a move, it will give us a great excuse to wipe them off the map," said Gen. Hajizadeh, according to IRNA.
Also on Monday, an Iranian lawmaker said lawmakers had drafted a bill to block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil-shipping corridor, to U.S. and European tankers. The bill is an "emergency plan to block the strait" following the implementation of EU sanctions, Ibrahim Agha Mohammadi, a member of the Parliament's national-security and foreign-policy commission, said in remarks posted Monday on Iran's parliamentary website Icana.
He said the bill had the support of 100 of the Parliament's 290 members, and was to exercise Iran's "sovereignty of internal waters and against an unfair and cruel oil embargo." The move would be largely symbolic, as the decision to close the strait would lie with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"We have seen similar threats from Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz many times before," an official at the U.S. State Department said. "Any attempt by Iran to close the Strait or to require vessels to obtain Iranian consent to transit the Strait would be inconsistent with international law and unacceptable to the United States," the official added.