TEL AVIV — Israel is keeping a “very sharp eye” on Iran’s modernized ballistic missile arsenal and will be “ready to respond” should the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) attempt to export the new Fateh 313 to Lebanon- or Syria-based proxies, a defense official says.
“We assess that Iran has begun to stockpile them,” the official said of the 500-kilometer-range, solid-fueled missile, unveiled in Aug. 22 ceremonies for National Defense Industry Day in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “You can be sure we are monitoring any attempt to move these out of the country by air, land or sea.”
He added, in a not-so-cryptic reference to the multiple times weapon shipments have either been seized on the high seas or attacked by air, “Our red lines are very clear to all and we are obliged to act on them.”
Tal Inbar, a missile expert who heads the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air & Space Studies, noted that Iran’s ability to extend the range of the Fateh 313 to double that of its predecessor, the Fateh 110, attests to the maturity of its aerospace industry.
“This is not a trivial thing to extend the range to such an extent," Inbar said. "The Iranians say it was achieved by way of a new formula for the solid fuel, but more probable is that they did it by reducing the size of its warhead.”
Regardless of how the Iranians managed to extend the range, and regardless of the likely penalty in warhead weight as compared to the Fateh 110 and its estimated 600-kilogram payload, Inbar said the precision-delivered system would be extremely lethal in the hands of Hezbollah.
“It means that from the farthest point in Lebanon, this missile can accurately hit high-value targets throughout Israel,” he said.
And while Iranian officials have stated that the missile is ready to enter production, Inbar concurred with the defense official who assessed that the Fateh 313 was already in serial production. “It won’t be long until dozens are delivered to the IRGC,” he said.
Uzi Rubin, a prominent missile expert and founding director of the MoD’s Israel Missile Defense Organization, said that as long as the new missile remains in Iran, it poses a direct threat to neighboring Arabian Gulf states and considerable swaths of Saudi Arabia.
“The raison d’etre of this system is to deter the gulf states. ,,, And if the gulf states are worried, they have very good reason,” he said.
Like other experts, Rubin surmised that the Fateh 313 has already entered serial production.
“They’re starting to stockpile the system. The Iranians showcased it in a storage area,” said Rubin, who, like Inbar, pored over images and video shown on Iranian state media.
He added that in the hands of Hezbollah or the Iranian-supported regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, “It would be a very effective weapon indeed.”
Israeli experts here noted that in a conference of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly in Tehran earlier this month, an organization operating under the supervision of the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, clerics and political leaders flagged Iran’s continued commitment to support and arm regional allies.
A paper published by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center quoted Rouhani as telling conference participants that Iran “flew the flag” of Islamic renaissance and resistance throughout the world and would continue to do so, despite the July 14 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
The paper quoted Ali-Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s adviser for international affairs, from an Aug. 15 interview translated from Iran’s Fars News Agency that “the situation of the resistance front had improved” and that the nuclear agreement “would make it possible to increase Iran’s support for its regional allies.”
The Israeli intelligence center also quoted from an Aug. 9 Fars News Agency report in which Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Iran intended to preserve its defensive capabilities and send weapons to its regional allies.
“He said that without Iran and the weapons it provided to the countries fighting terrorism, the capital cities of the Middle East would have been occupied by ISIS,” wrote Raz Zimmt, editor of the paper, titled Spotlight on Iran, which was published Aug. 23 by the intelligence center.