From 2007 January

Iran has converted one of its most powerful ballistic missiles into a satellite launch vehicle. The 30-ton rocket could also be a wolf in sheep's clothing for testing longer-range missile strike technologies, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine reports in its Jan. 29 issue.

The Iranian space launcher has recently been assembled and "will liftoff soon" with an Iranian satellite, according to Alaoddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.

The move toward an independent space launch capacity is likely to ratchet up concern in the U.S. and Europe about Iran's strategic capabilities and intents. Orbiting its own satellite would send a powerful message throughout the Muslim world about the Shiite regime in Tehran.

U.S. agencies believe the launcher to be a derivation of either of two vehicles -- the liquid-propellant, 800-1,000-mi. range Shahab 3 missile, or the 1,800-mi. range, solid propellant Ghadar-110. A Shahab 3 or a Ghadar-110 fired from central Iran could strike anywhere in Israel, Saudi Arabia, the entire Persian Gulf region and as far west as southern Turkey.

There are concerns in the West that space launch upgrades, however, could eventually create an Iranian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of nearly 2,500 mi., giving Tehran the ability to strike as far as central Europe, well into Russia and even China and India.

The U. S.

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