TEHRAN, Iran - Iran said Wednesday it has begun large-scale production of a domestically-developed cruise missile designed for sea-based targets and capable of destroying warships.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said an unspecified number of the missiles, called "Ghader," or "Capable" in Farsi, were delivered to the Iranian military and the powerful Revolutionary Guard's naval division, which is assigned to protect Iran's sea borders.
The announcement came as Iran's naval commander was quoted as saying the Islamic Republic would deploy warships to the Pacific, off the U.S. west coast, as retaliation for the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
"Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders," Iran's student news agency - one of several mouthpieces for the regime - quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying, according to a New York Times article.
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the report, according to the Times, saying the apparent plans "do not at all reflect Iran's naval capabilities."
Vahidi said the new cruise missiles, which have a range of 124 miles, can travel at low altitudes and "can sink giant warships." The comments appeared to suggest that the new missile could potentially counter the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.
The West is already concerned about Iran's military capabilities, especially the implications of the country's disputed nuclear program.
The U.S. and some of its allies, and the U.N. nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, fear that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon. Tehran denies the charges.
The New York Times article says Vahidi also dismissed an idea floated by outgoing U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a "hotline" should be established directly between Tehran and Washington so that an emergency phone call can be made if tension builds to a dangerous point in the future.
Such a hotline existed between Moscow and Washington for the duration of the Cold War, aimed at providing a last-minute opportunity to resolve misunderstandings as the world teetered on the brink of nuclear conflict.
"We do not need such a line in the region," Vahidi told Iran's state-controlled Fars News Agency, according to the Times. "They are seeking to set up a hotline in order to solve any potential tensions, whereas we believe if they leave the region, there will be no tension."
Vahidi's statement may have been more a political jab at Iran's own president than a real policy decision on the stance with the United States. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was open to the idea last week while in New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Ahmadinejad and the Muslim clerics who truly hold absolute power in the nation have been at odds in recent years, and they often issue contradictory statements. In the end, all final decisions in Iran are made by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his cadre of clerical advisors.
Iran's growing arsenal includes short and medium range ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting targets in the region such as Israel and U.S. military bases in the Gulf.
Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
Iran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, missiles, jet fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and torpedoes.