Israeli-U.S. Missile Test Rattles Middle East

Israel will be 'the first loser,' says Iran; Assad warns that the region is 'a barrel of explosives.'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting on September 1, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Israeli cabinet recently authorized a call-up of army reservists amid growing tensions with neighboring Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting on September 1, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. The Israeli cabinet recently authorized a call-up of army reservists amid growing tensions with neighboring Syria.

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U.S. and Israeli forces conducted a missile test in the Mediterranean early Tuesday morning, offering the region a front-row preview of the targeted strikes against the Syrian regime that could begin if Congress agrees on authorization.

[READ: White House Aims to Convince Congress on Syria ]

Russian officials said they had no advanced warning of the missile test they detected Tuesday morning, according to the Russian-based Interfax news, and the state-sponsored RIA Novosti news service. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin that the test launch included two ballistic targets Russia tracked falling into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Pentagon confirmed the launch, saying it provided technical assistance to the Israeli Missile Defense Organization for two Sparrow target missile tests, but denied any connection to the potential military strike in Syria.

The U.S. Navy parked ships bearing cruise missiles in the Eastern Mediterranean last week.

"The test was long planned to help evaluate the Arrow Ballistic Missile Defense system's ability to detect, track, and communicate information about a simulated threat to Israel," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a written statement Tuesday. "The United States and Israel cooperate on a number of long-term ballistic missile defense development projects to address common challenges in the region."

"This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack," he said.

[PHOTOS: Violence in Syria ]

Iranian officials, following reports of the test, warned that Israel would be "the main loser" if the U.S. and its allies move forward with President Barack Obama's call for targeted missiles strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"The first loser of this crisis will be the Zionist regime," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, according to state-run Fars News Service.

Israeli soldiers check Merkava tanks stationed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights along the border with Syria on September 1, 2013. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Ayatollah Khamenei said the potential U.S. and Israeli intervention in Syria would be "a disaster for the region," FNS reports. "If such an act is done, certainly, the Americans will sustain damage like when they interfered in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In an interview with France's Le Figaro, Assad said the U.S. and Israel should be worried about a greater reaction to potential strikes than simply from the Syrian military.

"If we think of the Middle East as a barrel of explosives close to a fire that is coming ever closer, then it becomes clear that the issue is no longer contained to a Syrian response, but rather what will happen after the first strike," Assad said in an interview released Tuesday through the Syrian state news service.

"Once the barrel explodes, everyone loses control; nobody can determine the outcome, however what is certain is the spread of chaos, wars and extremism in all its forms everywhere," he said.

[OPINION: Before Obama Shoots, He Scores ]

Assad stated he would not specify details of the Syrian military response when asked if he would consider targeting Israel, adding "there are many players involved and narrowing the conversation to just one player diminishes the significance of what will happen."

Obama has been working to raise international support for intervention following criticism from the Russian and Chinese governments, two critical players with veto power on the U.N. Security Council. He called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Tuesday morning, according to the White House, to discuss potential intervention.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey were scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday afternoon to testify about the potential options for intervention in Syria.

 

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