Sunday, May 24, 2009

Canvassing or breaktrough?

On Wednesday, May 20, Iran tested its new Sajil-2 MRBM. Teheran touts the missile to be an "advanced technology" missile capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf. If the assumptions are true that the Sajil-2 has a range of 2,000km, the missile would indeed easily bring these targets into range.

An unnamed U.S. government official said that the Sajil-2 is the longest-range solid-propellant missile Iran has launched so far, raising concerns about the sophistication of Tehran's missile program. Many analysts said the launch of the solid-fuel Sajil-2 was significant because such missiles are more accurate than liquid fuel missiles of similar range, such as Iran's Shahab-3. The Sajil-2 differs from the Sajil which was tested last in November 2008 because it "is equipped with a new navigation system as well as precise and sophisticated sensors," according to Iran's official news agency. U.S. missile tracking systems have confirmed the Sajil-2's precision and other advanced capabilities. Until now, the Americans and Israelis were confident that insurmountable technical difficulties prevented Iran's missile industry from achieving an accurate guidance system but this assumption was nullified by the Sajil-2 launch.

It seems that Iran got a little help from some friends: Israeli security analysts stated that the missile is similar to a model used by Pakistan, suggesting that Islamabad might be assisting Tehran in its weapons program.

However, Charles Vick, a senior technical analyst for, is "not all that impressed" by the test. "It's just another test that confirms they've got the system that was operational last summer.

The Time writes that Iran's missile test may have less to do with advancing its military capability than with getting a last word in on Monday's conversation between President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Besides that it is also a form of canvassing of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is on the election campaign trail.

Quite timely, the East-West Institute published a joint U.S.-Russian threat assessment on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Make sure to take a look at Martin Senn’s Arms Control Blog to get the content in a nutshell. At the same time, the Jerusalem Post came up with its own assessments how many missiles Iran has and will have in the near future: Iran is about to mass produce long-range missiles.

This of course has to be taken with a big grain of salt... like almost every piece of news from the Middle East.

Picture © AFG / Getty

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