Friday, July 11, 2008

How Much Can The Media Reports On Iran's Missiles Be Trusted?

Putting aside Thursday's headline in the Times Online -- Picture: Iran 'fakes' missile launch after misfire, just how reliable is the media when it comes to reports Iran's military capability? Apparently the Iranian missile launch was enough to trigger a spike in oil prices--but is too much weight being given to Iran's claims?

Blogging on Pajamas Media, Spook86 of In From The Cold asks Is Tehran Bluffing?
Secondly, reporting on the missile test — or at least the information available so far — ignores the salient question about the supposed “highlight” of the exercise: the launch of an extended range Shahab-3 that could target Israel. This is not the first time Iran has tested a longer-rage version of the Shahab-3; launches involving that type of missile date back almost a decade.

But many of those tests had something in common: they resulted in failures, ranging from missiles that blew up in flight, failed to achieve the desired range, or strayed badly off course. So far, Tehran hasn’t provided details on Wednesday’s Shahab-3 launch, only saying that it has a maximum range of 1250 miles and is capable of carrying a one-ton payload. If the extended-range Shahab-3 remains unreliable, it will pose less of a threat to Israel and other potential targets in the Middle East.

In fact, Iran reportedly stopped work on another missile program (dubbed the Shahab-4), replacing it with BM-25 intermediate range missiles from North Korea. The BM-25 — based on an old Soviet SLBM design — arrived in Iran more than a year ago but has not been operationally tested. Cancellation of the Shahab-4 and slow progress with the BM-25 suggest continuing problems with Tehran’s intermediate and long-range missile programs.

Deficiencies can also be found among operational systems. Media reports on Wednesday’s launch are wildly inaccurate in one important element: characterizing many of the missiles tested as long-range systems. The Shahab-3 is actually classified as a medium-range system; the other missiles tested appear to be short-range systems, capable of reaching targets less than 150 miles away — and with only limited accuracy.

In fact, the three missiles that were launched simultaneously (and highlighted in press photos) are unsophisticated battlefield rockets, probably a Zelzal variant. Iran first introduced the Zelzal in the mid-1990s; it was based on the Russian Frog-7 design, which dates from the 1950s. Not exactly state-of-the-art. But the western press accepts Iranian military claims uncritically and often inflates the threat, much to Tehran’s delight.
Read the whole thing.

Can the media, which accepts the claims of terrorists in the region as fact, be considered any more reliable when it comes to the claims of Muslim countries? On his own blog, Spook86 writes:
As we’ve noted in previous posts, Tehran’s displays of armed might sometimes laughable, if you only bother to take a closer look.

But give Iran some credit. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pass off a World War II torpedo as an unbeatable naval weapon, or advertise a 50-year old rocket design, coated with radar-absorbing paint, as a “stealth missile.” And it takes a lazy, gullible press to fall for those claims, hook, line and sinker.
By the same token, the world cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what Iran is up to either. But a trained eye would be nice. The Wall Street Journal speculates on what kind of threat Iranian missiles offer down the road based on the Iranian test launch:

Replace the payload with a lighter one – say, a nuclear warhead – and the range gains 1,000 miles. Add a booster and the range can be extended even farther. North Korea did just that with its Taepodong missile – technology that it passed along to Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran will have a ballistic missile capable of reaching New York or Washington by about 2015.

Iran may already have the capability to target the U.S. with a short-range missile by launching it from a freighter off the East Coast. A few years ago it was observed practicing the launch of Scuds from a barge in the Caspian Sea.

With all of this, there is no relief from an op-ed in which claims that Israel is not even the main target of Iran:
What Iran really wants is the Persian Gulf, which the Arabs refer to as the Arab Gulf. Iran emerged out of a great empire. Today, it wants to regain its place as the successor of this empire and of the Muslim empire. It united the two and ultimately it wants to take over Gulf states and Syria, and use Lebanon as a large seaport for oil.

The Iranians are an ancient people with a long history. They do not wish to become extinct. What they do want is the billion dollars a day earned by Saudi Arabia. The Iranians want ancient Islam and they are going for the jackpot with the common sense that is lacking among our Mofazes, our politicians, and our arrogant military officers.
Even if the Iranian missiles are to some degree a sham, while you can laugh at their attempts at Photoshopping, but you can't laugh off the ability of the Iranian government to control events in the region.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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