Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar announced today that his government had successfully test-fired the next generation of their long range surface-to-surface missiles, dubbed the Sajjil. Minister Najjar touted the missile as having “extraordinary high capability.”
The Sajjil has much (including maximum range) in common with Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, leading western experts to speculate that the “new” missile is really just the old one with a new name. Andrew Brookes from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the launching is “not that meaningful,” while Duncan Lennox of Jane’s Strategic Weapons said the photographs showed a missile that looked like an Ashoura, or a Shahab-3A. Minister Najjar says the new missile uses solid fuel engines, unlike the liquid fuel powered Shahab-3’s, making the new missile, if indeed it is a new missile, potentially more accurate.
The United States condemned the move, with White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe saying the test is “completely inconsistent with Iran’s obligations to the world.” He demanded Iran halt its ballistic missile development “which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon,” while Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the test was “another reminder of the importance of establishing a missile defense site in Poland and in the Czech Republic to defend” against the missiles.
Of course, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei said late last month that Iran didn’t even possess the nuclear material for a single nuclear weapon, making irrelevant the Sajjil’s potential for carrying such a warhead. Likewise, the new missile reportedly has a range of 2,000 km, putting the all-important missile defense site several hundred kilometers outside the maximum range of the new missiles.