On February 9, just as the nuclear talks in Vienna reached a critical stage, Iran unveiled its “Khaybar Sheikan” (Khaybar Buster) missile, which has a purported range of 1,450 kilometers. This significant development demonstrates, more than anything, the increasing size and range of Iran’s slant-firing solid-motor missiles. The Khaybar reference, meanwhile, points to a seventh-century battle between Muhammad’s army and Jewish communities near Medina whose members refused to convert to Islam and were defeated after their hardened fortresses were overrun.
The unveiling likewise came just six days after Iran’s “National Space Technology Day,” which commemorates the 2009 launch into earth orbit of the country’s first satellite, Omid, aboard a homegrown liquid-fuel Safir rocket. The Safir emerged from Iran’s family of Shahab-3 medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which are based on North Korea’s Nodong design. According to documents in Iran’s “nuclear archives” snatched by Israel in January 2018, Shahab-3 was intended to carry the country’s first nuclear weapons. Safir has since been superseded by other designs, including the larger Simorgh, although it has yet to successfully place a satellite into orbit despite at least five attempts since 2016. Iran has clearly not yet been able to “stabilize” its liquid-fuel space launch vehicles (SLVs).
Read the rest of the brief analysis at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.