WASHINGTON - Iran is turning up the heat in the Middle East.
The Persian country launched another round of missile tests overnight with weapons that could reach Israel and American targets in the region.
The U.S. says it will protect Israel from an attack, but America is also seeking a diplomatic solution.
Iran Flexes It's Muscles
In a show of defiance, Iran says it successfully hit its targets in round two of the country's missile tests.
Iranian officials claim the missiles have "special capabilities" although they did not specify what they were.
Today's launch came only hours after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Tehran that the United States would not waver in the face of Iranian threats, and would protect Israel.
"We take very strongly our obligations to help our allies defend themselves, and no one should be confused about that," Rice said.
The timing of the launch is raising questions.
Yesterday's missile tests followed last month's Israeli exercise, seen by many as a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Among the missiles fired was the new shahab-3, capable of reaching Israel within a matter of minutes. Or striking U.S. bases and interests in the region.
No Laughing Matter
This week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the possibility of war with the U.S. or Israel as "a funny joke."
But administration officials see this as anything but a laughing matter.
"The reality is that there is a lot of signaling going on, but I think everybody recognizes what the consequences of any kind of a conflict would be," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
In response, Israel today is putting an advanced spy plane on public display. It's equipped with sophisticated intelligence systems to collect information on Iran's nuclear program, raising suspicion that an attack may be imminent.
Terrorism analyst Daveed Gartentenstein Ross said the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran this year was "well under 50 percent."
He added, "On the flip side… Bush is a lame duck and he wouldn't have a whole lot of political capital to lose," Ross told CBN News.
Despite all the rhetoric and the show of force, the Bush administration says it is committed to a diplomatic and economic approach to dealing with Iran and trying to get the regime to peacefully resolve its differences with the international community.