Missiles capable of striking the United States may be developed by Iran by 2015

MissilesIran may build missiles capable of striking the United States by 2015, an unclassified U. S. Defense Department report has said.

The report, leaked to national media and reported by Israel's Arutz Sheva news agency, said, "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015."

"Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility to develop nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy," the report further added.

It wasn't immediately clear whether a classified copy of the report, which was submitted to Congress, included details about Iran's nuclear capabilities also.

Still, the report appeared to heighten fears of the Islamic republic's strike capabilities despite a May 2009 U. S. National Intelligence Estimate suggesting that Tehran was unlikely to have ICBMs by 2020.

Tehran launched an arms development program 30 years ago, in the wake of a U. S. weapons embargo. As of 1992, it has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and fighter aircraft.

It has been argued by Iranian officials for long time that the country's military and arms programs were intended for defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country.

Israel, however, has heightened worries about Iran because of Tehran's controversial nuclear program, missiles and repeated threats against the Jewish state.

It has been suggested by officials in Israel that it could launch pre-emptive strikes against Iranian nuclear sites if it is shown that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons. It has repeatedly urged the United States to take action against Iran.

A U. S. strike on Iran would go "a long way toward delaying the country's nuclear program," U. S. Navy Adm. Michael Mullen said, speaking at a forum at Columbia University. (With Inputs from Agencies)