Expert Says Missile Photo Appears to Be Doctored

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Expert Says Missile Photo Appears to Be Doctored
July 10, 2008

Iran apparently doctored a photograph of missile test-firings and exaggerated the capabilities of the weapons, according to a defense analyst whose conclusions were backed by photography experts.

On Wednesday, Iran said it test-fired a series of long- and medium-range missiles, escalating the saber rattling over its nuclear program and frustrating U.S. officials who have cited glimmers of progress in recent weeks. Iranian officials said in state media that the barrage included a new version of the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 1,200 miles, enough to hit Israel.

A state-issued photograph, carried by Agence France-Presse and picked up by The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers for Thursday editions, showed four missiles firing simultaneously. But one of the missiles had apparently been added to the photo, borrowing elements from the smoke trail and dust clouds from two of the other missiles, skeptics said.

After being shown the photograph, Mark Fitzpatrick of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies told AFP: “It very much does appear that Iran doctored the photo to cover up what apparently was a misfiring of one of the missiles.

“The whole purpose of this testing was to send a signal, so Iran both exaggerated the capabilities of the missile in their prose and apparently doctored the photos, as well,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said, according to AFP.

In addition, Mr. Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official, said: “In terms of capability, they claimed the Shahab-3 could travel 2,000 kilometers carrying a one-ton warhead. This is very unlikely.

“The Shahab-3 normally has a range of 1,300 kilometers, and the range can be extended to 2,000 kilometers, but it would require a much lighter warhead.”

The photo on Iran’s Sepah News site was replaced Thursday with an image showing three missiles — which appear to be the same as the earlier photo. In place of the fourth missile, however, the photo showed one still on the ground in its launch position and what appears to be a vehicle nearby.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian government officials on the photos.

According to a U.S. official, analysts determined that Tehran on Thursday launched another weapon, an antiship missile — one night after the string of tests.

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