US officials say Iran missile launch a fake

U.S. officials have determined that the launch of a new medium-range ICBM by Iran on Friday was a fake.

Experts say the video released by Iran depicting the launch was from a failed test last January.

Fox News:

The video released by the Iranians was more than seven months old – dating back to a failed launch in late January, which resulted in the missile exploding shortly after liftoff, according to two U.S. officials.

President Trump had originally responded to the reported launch in a late-Saturday tweet, saying, "Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!"

This was after Trump, speaking before world leaders at the United Nations, called the Iran nuclear deal an "embarrassment" to the United States.  

"We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program," he said.

Trump later told reporters he had made up his mind about the deal, but wouldn't say whether he would pull the United States out of the nuclear accord with Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking at the U.N. one day after Trump, maintained his country's missile program was "solely defensive" in nature. 

"We never threaten anyone, but we do not tolerate threats from anyone," he said. Rouhani returned to Tehran two days later to preside over the missile parade featuring the new medium-range design and said his country would build as many missiles as necessary to defend itself.  

Afterward, the footage was aired, with Iranian media claiming a successful test launch – though it apparently showed the failed January launch.

Officials say that the new missile is based – like most Iranian missiles are – on a North Korean design.

Iran's new medium-range missile is based on a North Korean design – Pyongyang's BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of nearly 2,500 miles, putting U.S. forces in the Middle East and Israel within reach if its problems are fixed.  

"The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles," said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. "Over the years, we've seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other's countries, and we've seen all kinds of common hardware."

For the Iranian government, it's not important that their attempt to hoodwink the U.S. and Western intelligence was a failure.  The purpose of the fake missile launch was to deceive their own people.

The government derives much of its legitimacy from claiming to be the Islamic bulwark against U.S. imperialism.  To demonstrate that, the Iranians must provoke the U.S. to respond to Iranian threats.  It may be that the recent attention paid to North Korea's missile and nuke programs by the U.S. was making it harder for Iran to get the required response from the U.S. to their provocations.  Predictably, the U.S.'s and the West's response to the Friday launch gave the Iranians exactly what they wanted.

The tone of Donald Trump's rhetoric against Iran, and that of his administration, would lead us to believe that sometime soon, the U.S. will pull out of the nuclear deal.  There is ample cause for this, considering how the government of Iran has chosen to interpret several key elements in the deal that are totally at odds with the way that President Obama characterized what was in the agreement.  

Beyond that, it is a question of good faith by the Iranians who claim they have put their nuclear program on hold while going forward with great speed to develop missiles that can threaten the world in complete defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.  The U.S. will be blamed for pulling out of the deal, but the fault clearly lies with the Iranian government who received a $100-billion gift from Barack Obama when he agreed to lift sanctions without giving up anything much at all.