Iran sharply increased missile testing in 2018

Iran has doubled its missile tests to improve their range accuracy, Western intelligence believes. 

By Jack Gold, World Israel News

Reports by Western intelligence agencies indicate that the number of Iranian ballistic missile tests has more than doubled in 2018 and that Iran’s missiles can strike at parts of Europe, Germany’s Welt reported on Sunday.

The Welt based its report on documents from Western intelligence services, which say that Iran has significantly expanded its testing activities.

In doing so, Tehran is probably violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 powers (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany), and explicitly prohibits Iran from tests and other activity with ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

The intelligence reports cited by the Welt show that in 2018 alone Iran launched at least seven medium-range missiles for testing purposes. In addition, Iran fired at least five more short-range and cruise missiles against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Syria, the use of which could also be in violation of the nuclear agreement.

In 2017, there were only four tests of medium-range missiles and only one test of a short-range missile.

All the missiles launched by Iran meet the criteria of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for weapons that can be used as delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs, the Welt stressed.

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Both the Iranian-developed Shahab-3 and Scud missiles are MTCR category one ballistic missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear payload of 500 kilograms for a range of over 300 kilometers. The medium-range missiles that were tested by Iran are capable of reaching southeastern European Union countries.

The German government on Tuesday condemned the recent Iranian medium-range missile test, saying it was “incompatible with UNSC resolution 2231 and aggravates tensions in the region,” and called on Iran to “cease this activity.”

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council met to discuss the matter but reached no decision.

According to the Welt‘s report, Germany, France and Great Britain have already expressed their concerns about Iran’s missile operations at the beginning of October in a joint letter to the UNSC and stated their view that this was in violation of resolution 2231.

Better accuracy or nuclear capabilities?

The report further said that European countries are following the Iranian missile program “with great concern.” However, there are differing opinions when it comes to the assessment of the missiles’ capabilities. Iran’s increased testing activity could indicate that the country is working on improving its missile accuracy.

On the other hand, the Iranian-developed Shahab-3 and Khorramshahr models are closely related to nuclear warfare.

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Michael Elleman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British military think tank, said that the Shahab-3 can be used as a nuclear missile.

“With this missile, it’s fair to say that it is intended for nuclear use. However, this may be different for later variants,” Elleman told the Welt.

The West has very little information about the Khorramshahr, which was only introduced in 2017, Elleman said. However, the Khorramshahr missiles can probably be said to be “designed to deploy nuclear weapons,” he said.

It is also possible that the Iranians carried out so many tests because they want to increase the accuracy of their missiles, according to Elleman, but this does not necessarily mean they will be used only for conventional purposes.

“If you want to hit a smaller, particularly well-protected target – such as the Israeli nuclear complex in Dimona – and don’t have very powerful conventional bombs, you could well want to use a very accurate nuclear missile,” he warned.

Iran claims its military development is for defense purposes only. However, many of these weapons were given to the Hezbollah terror organization and used against Israel’s civilian population during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to use its missiles against Israel.