The International Institute for Strategic Studies said Iran’s missile development programme was expanding in tandem with its drive to acquire an atomic capability.
The Sajjil-2 missile, with a range of 1,400 miles, was test-fired at the end of 2008 and will be ready for deployment in 2012. The weapon relies on solid fuel for propulsion, which means it has a short preparation time and can’t be as easily deterred by a pre-emptive strike.
Although the missile is initially likely to carry a conventional warhead, the development of similar missiles in other countries has been closely tied to a nuclear weapons programme.
“Iran is the only country to have developed a missile of this reach without first having developed nuclear weapons,” the report said.
The missile would be capable of hitting Israel and parts of southern Europe depending on the size of the warhead. A nuclear device weighting between 750 kilograms and one ton could be placed on the models seen in testing.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a specialist on Iranian security, said the report demonstrated that Iran had devoted substantial resources to ballistic technology and an associated space race, even though its economy was failing. “Iran has been extremely active and increasingly active over the years,” he said. “It’s very clear that huge investment are being made in both missile technology and the space programme.”
Efforts to stop Iran enriching uranium in contravention of nuclear treaties top the global diplomatic agenda and have already seen three rounds of United Nations sanctions imposed.
The report dismissed American fears that Iran was on track to develop an intercontinental missile that would be capable of a range beyond 3,450 miles in the near future. It said the development would not take place in the current decade.
“Logic and the history of Iran’s revolutionary missile and space launcher development efforts suggest Tehran would develop and field an intermediate range missile before embarking on a programme to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the American East coast,” it said.
While Iran is developing a large range of missiles and building new launching sites, it has not proven its ability to improve the accuracy of its weapons.
The IISS also warned that the missile programme was fuelling a Middle East arms race.