What the Iran Missile Test Means

Chris Pang, Middle East analyst puts the test into perspective.

ByEliza Browning
January 08, 2009, 1:04 AM

July 10, 2008 -- Iran test-fired nine missiles today and warned the United States and Israel that it was capable of retaliation against an attack over its disputed nuclear projects. Although the United States has urged Tehran to stop further tests, Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are directed solely at generating electricity.

Christopher Pang is the Middle East analyst for the London-based Royal United Services Institute, or RUS, an organization that studies international defense and security. ABC News asked Pang about the implications of Iran's test.

How significant was today's test?

PANG: Iran has been testing for quite some time. This is no surprise. But the biggest difference in this test is that it did it over the Gulf.

Is testing over the Gulf uncommon?

PANG: Not necessarily. Testing over water is not uncommon. Iran would not test over Afghanistan and it would not test over its own territory, but this test sends a clear message to the United States and its allies of its retaliatory capabilities. The distance of the test can be seen as a response to Israel's flight test from Tel Aviv to Greece.

What was the purpose of the test?

PANG: Iran is trying to establish credibility in its retaliatory capabilities. It realizes it can't do it just by rhetoric alone.

Iran also must prove that it can'trely on the threat of asymmetrical retaliation, by activating proxies. They know they must show they represent a significant threat on their own.

The test can also be seen as a potential threat to U.S. strategic interests in the Gulf, including Iraq, other Gulf states and U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

When you say activating proxies, whom do you mean?

PANG: Mainly Hezbollah and Hamas. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are beholden to their populations, and they can't necessarily act with free hands. Iran needs to prove it can retaliate on its own.

What do you think Iran is trying to communicate?

PANG: Iran is trying to tell the U.S. and Israel that no matter what you have up your sleeve, we have a deterrent capability as well.

If proving its capability was Iran's goal, was it successful?

PANG: I reserve judgment at this time. I have to wait and see.

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