26,2004 Iran announced that it was deploying the "strategic"
Shahab-3 missile on mobile launchers. Is
the Shahab-3 designed to carry a nuclear warhead?
Yes, the Shahab (Farsi for Shooting Star)
makes little sense as anything but a WMD.
Its one-ton warhead can not be depended on to hit a
target within a radius of 2.5 to 4 kms.
If armed with conventional explosives, such imprecision
makes it ineffective against most military targets.
(Indeed, it would be less effective than a one-ton car
bomb.) The only way that the Shahab 3 would serve
as an effective strategic deterrent-- for example, against
Israel or the U.S. -- is if it is armed with a nuclear
warhead (or another kind of WMD.) With a nuclear
payload aimed at a city or an oil-loading facility,
a miss of a few kilometers may not matter.
Does the planned cargo of the Shahab-3
dovetail with Iran's other nuclear programs? Here
General Yuri Baluyevsky, the Russian Deputy Chief of
Staff, may have offered a clue. In aJune
2002 press conference, General Baluyevsky said, "Iran
does have nuclear weapons. These are non-strategic nuclear
weapons. " While General Baluyevsky's
remark may have been premature in 2002, he presumably
had a window into Iran's nuclear programs. At
that time, Russia was building six nuclear reactors
for Iran, as well as a uranium-conversion plant that
can be used for, among other things, uranium enrichment.
The deployment of a relatively-inaccurate ballastic
missile raises the question anew: other than as
a part of a Nuclear weapons strategy, why would Iran
has made such aheavy investments in the Shahab-3.