NEW YORK, (AP) – An Iranian photograph showing a cluster of missile launches was apparently altered to add a fourth missile lifting off from a desert range, a defense analyst said Thursday.
“There’s no doubt the photo was doctored,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation Program for the London-based International Institute For Strategic Studies.
The image, posted Wednesday on a Web site owned by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, showed four missiles moments after launch, leaving trails of glowing exhaust and clouds of billowing brown dust.
The scene was described as part of military maneuvers in which nine missiles were test fired, including an enhanced version of the Shahab-3. Iranian officials say the new missile has a range of 1,250 miles, which would enable a strike on Israel and most of the Middle East. The tests drew immediate criticism from Washington.
Some media outlets used the photo, but it was not carried by The Associated Press.
The photo on the Sepah News site was replaced Thursday with an image showing three missiles — which appear to be the same as the earlier photo. In place of the fourth missile, however, the photo showed one still on the ground in its launch position and what appears to be a vehicle nearby.
That photo was used by the AP. The image with four launches was taken off the Sepah site’s main news page, but both photos were on its archive Thursday.
Fitzpatrick, a former State Department official who followed arms control issues, believes the photo was manipulated after the missile malfunctioned.
“They had a rocket launch and one failed,” he said. “They have had other tests that have succeeded, but Iran tends to exaggerate its capabilities.”
There was no immediate comment from Iranian government officials on the photos.
“The whole purpose of these launches was to demonstrate Iran’s capabilities and a photo showing one out of four rockets failing doesn’t have the intended impact,” Fitzpatrick said.