IRAN TO SCRAP PRODUCTION OF SHAHAB-4 BALLISTIC MISSILES
LONDON 24 Feb. (IPS) Iran has decided to scrap, for the time being, the costly "Shahab-4" ballistic missiles and concentrate on the production of anti-aircraft rockets, according to the London and Riyadh-based international Arabic daily "Al Sharq Al-Awsat".
Quoting "highly informed" Iranian military source, Dr. Alireza Noorizadeh, an independent Iranian journalist with good connections to Iranian establishment attributed the change in the policy concerning the production of missiles to the latest threats by American President George W. Bush against Iran.
In his 29 January State of the Union speech to the Congress, President Bush put Iran in the same "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea. He also accused Iran of continuing its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, providing arms and ammunitions to Palestinian and Arab extremist groups opposed to the peace process and also interfering in Afghanistanís interior affairs.
According to Mr. Noorizadeh, following the American menaces, the Supreme Council of National Security and the Supreme Council for National Defence, both chaired by President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami and supervised by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Iranian regime and supreme commander of all Iranian armed forces decided to postpone sine die the Shahab-4 project.
"A source at the Shahid (martyr) Hemmat Complex Centre in charge of the production of various medium-range surface to surface missiles of the type "Hadid"; "Noor" and "Oqab" explained the provisory stopping of the "Shahab-4" ballistic rocket by saying that the missiles the regime has already at its disposal are sufficient for its defence", the paper said.
Military experts said the Shahab-3 missiles, with a range of 1.200 kilometres, are sufficient for the purposes of Iranian defence against possible and probable enemies falling in that range.
"As far as we know, we have no enemy over that distance to strike at us", the source has noted, reminding that, Iran has already produced and successfully test fired eight Shahab-3 weapons.
The decision to scrap the "Shahab-4" project was reached following days of hot and passionate debates at both the SCNS and SCND meetings, where Army officers and experts, backed by Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani, observed that the production of the Shahab-4 and a more sophisticated new version named "Shahab-5" with a range of over 4.000 kilometres, not only would not enhance the nationís defence capacity, but would endanger national security instead, as the United States or the European countries would never allow Iran to produce weapons that could reach their cities and populations, "Al Sharq Al-Awsat" said.
"As far as Israel is concerned, since the existing Shahab-3 could easily reach Tel-Aviv and most Jewish cities, there is no need to develop Shahab-4 and Shahab-5", the paper quoted informed sources.
At the same time, Iranís land forces are in the process of developing new versions of advanced anti-tank rockets based on the American "TOW" types, capable of being fired from helicopters or land-based vehicles.
Iran used to have hundreds of US-made TWO rockets, bought before the Islamic revolution of 1979 and is also developing modern versions of the Russian-made "Sagger" and "Maliutka" anti-tank rockets, American-designed "Dragon" as well as air to air "Sparow", to be fired from the ageing but overhauled F-14 fighter planes transformed by the Iranian Air Force Industries into heavy bombers. ENDS IRAN MISSILES 24202