- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iran’s missile test last week did not demonstrate any new capabilities, said a U.S. official familiar with the intelligence, and the test may not have included one of the longer-range missiles Iran claims was among those launched.

Iranian officials said the tests Wednesday and Thursday demonstrated a new variant of the Shahab missile that had a range of 1,250 miles. Such a missile would put Iran in striking distance of much of the Middle East, including Israel - as close as 650 miles from Iran - as well as Turkey, Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

U.S. officials immediately criticized the tests. In Eastern Europe during the launches, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the missile tests underscored the need for a U.S. missile shield in the region.

An independent national security blog, ArmsControlWonk.com, click here, Thursday analyzed video footage of the launch posted by the Iranian government. It determined that the missiles were identical to a version of the Shahab missile first demonstrated in Iran in 1998 that has a known range of 746 miles.

In a post called “Same old Boring Shahab 3,” it compared the diameter of the missile with its length and found it to be identical to the 1998 version.

Unless the Iranians built a larger missile with the same length-to-width ratio, dramatically improved the thrust of the rocket or decreased its internal structural mass, the missile could not achieve the range Iran claimed it did. Otherwise, it is the same knockoff of North Korea’s Nodong-1, according to the blog.

Iran falsely claimed in February that it launched a two-stage missile that later analysis determined to be a one-stage Shahab missile, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based arms control advocacy think tank.

“Iran frequently exaggerates the capability of its missiles, and it appears it is continuing that tradition with [last] week’s tests,” said David Wright, co-director of the Union’s Global Security Program.

The U.S. official familiar with the intelligence said the Iranian tests involved eight or nine missiles, most fired on Wednesday and one more several hours later early Thursday. The mix of missiles ranged from medium-range to close-range battlefield rockets. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary analysis, said U.S. intelligence had not decisively determined the exact models.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the test was being taken seriously and was an attempt to destabilize the region.

“We don’t believe this exercise to have been an illusion,” he said Friday. Still, he added, “They were not testing new technologies or capabilities, but rather firing off old equipment in an attempt to intimidate their neighbors and escalate tension in the region. That is not the way to win the trust and confidence of the international community.”

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