Western intelligence analysts say a new missile launching facility in Iran will likely be used for testing ballistic missiles, not for launching satellites into space as claimed by the Iranians.
The IHS Jane’s Military and Security Assessments Intelligence Centre published a photo taken last month of the newly discovered site, which is located 25 miles south east of the city of Shahrud in northern Iran.
Analysts at the Centre said the unfinished site has no storage for the liquid rocket fuel used in Iran’s domestic satellite program, suggesting it is built for ballistic missiles using solid fuel.
Shashank Joshi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute who has written about the Iranian missile program, told The Telegraph: “We often talk about Iran’s nuclear program, but what really spooks countries in the region is the ballistic missiles that could act as a delivery system.
“America has long said Iran might be able to test intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2015,” he said, and added that Iran had been developing solid fuel rockets which are quicker to deploy than liquid fuel versions.
According to Matthew Clements, who edited the Intelligence Centre’s assessments, “This site could be a facility for launching satellites into orbit. However, Iran is already building at least one other site for this purpose and, looking at the satellite imagery we have got, we believe that this facility is most likely used for testing ballistic missiles.”
Believing that the Islamic Republic is working on developing nuclear weapons, the international community has slammed the country with crippling sanctions.
Newly elected Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has indicated a willingness to cooperate with the West regarding his country’s nuclear program, however, skeptics, most notably among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, believe Iran is just playing for time.