On September 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.

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