President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad extolled Iran's military might during an annual army parade on Sunday, saying the country is so powerful today that no one would dare attack it.
The parade in Tehran showcased Iran's surface-to-surface Ghadr, Sajjil and Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of up to 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel and U.S. bases in the region within Iran's reach.
The Shahab-3 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, adding to the concerns of the United Sates and other nations that fear Iran's uranium enrichment program masks ambitions to produce an atomic bomb.
"Today, our armed forces have so much power that no enemy will harbor evil thoughts about laying its hands on Iranian territory," Ahmadinejad said at the parade marking National Army Day. The speech was broadcast live on state TV, which also showed segments of the parade.
Ahmadinejad urged the U.S. to stop supporting Israel and to dismantle the American military presence in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Tehran sees American troops on its doorstep in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf as a threat, and Ahmadinejad reiterated his allegations that the U.S. presence is the source of the region's instability.
"They have to leave our region. This is not a request, it is an order from the nations of the region. It is the will of the regional nations," Ahmadinejad said. "If they are interested in helping the security of the region, they have to dismantle their military presence in the region and stop supporting Israel."
The U.S. has been pressing for a new round of international sanctions against Iran after Tehran spurned President Barack Obama's offer for dialogue over its accelerated nuclear development. The Obama administration has pursued what it calls the "pressure track" — a combination of stepped-up military activity in Iran's neighborhood and sanctions that would pinch Iran economically.
But, according to a report by The New York Times on Sunday, a January memo from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the White House warned that the U.S. lacks a nimble long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
Gates' three-page memo set off efforts in the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies to come up with new options, including the use of the military, the Times said, quoting unnamed government officials.
However, White House officials Saturday night strongly disagreed the memo caused a reconsideration of the U.S. approach to Iran.
"It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told The Associated Press. "This administration has been planning for all contingencies regarding Iran for many months."
U.S. Senator John McCain said he did not need the memo to conclude the United States lacked an effective Iran policy. The Republican senator, who ran against Obama in the 2008 election, called for serious and meaningful sanctions.
"We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective," McCain said on "Fox News Sunday."
If Russia and China continue to oppose tougher sanctions at the U.N., Washington should team up with European allies to implement penalties such as blocking Iran's imports of gasoline, McCain said.
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and fighter planes.
Tehran has been also looking to upgrade its defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, such as electricity production.
The advances in Iran's military technology cannot be independently verified.
Iranian news agencies reported that the parade Sunday also displayed an air defense system similar to the Russian-made S-300, which is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missile warheads at ranges of over 90 miles (145 kilometers) and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet.
Iran ordered Russia's advanced S-300 air defense system in 2007, but none have been delivered, allegedly due to technical glitches, though many believe the delay stems from international opposition to the sale.
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