July 11, 2008

The Iranian threat, real and Photoshopped [Karl]

Wired’s Noah Shachtman rounds up some of the better mockeries of Iran’s attempt to Photoshop a failed missile launch into a success.  My favorite may be the old school approach of a Boing Boing commenter:


While the Photoshop folly is deserving of mockery, Galrahn at Information Dissemination has a more serious look at the signs that an attack on Iran by Israel in the autumn, and how a number of elements from the missile test to the the passage of the FISA amendments fit into that scenario.

(h/t Memeorandum.)

Update: A ‘lanche from Down Under!  Thanks, Tim Blair!

Posted by Karl @ 4:46pm

Comments (87)

  1. – Soooo…..Thats what the 12th Imam looks like….Who knew?

  2. I think you kind of have to be in a certain mood to read Mr. Galrahn. It’s almost five here on a Friday afternoon. It’s just sort of cognitive dissonancey. I mean, I can’t say I’m excited about this bill, but I can live with it, perhaps literally… huh?

  3. Anyone have any sense how good the Iranian missile guidance is? Seems to me to be important whether the thing lands within yards or 0.5km of target. Also just happens to be the bit of important information my usual news-sources don’t report.

  4. Defence analyst Paul Beaver said Iran’s missile programme was fairly advanced but that it still needed to get accuracy and guidance systems right for long distances. “They are some way away yet from threatening Israel or U.S. bases,” he said.

    From here.

  5. “a more serious look at the signs that an attack on Iran by Israel in the autumn”

    I am flabbergasted. You really think there is a uptick toward war?

    What is your diet, Karl? I want to know what smart people eat.

  6. An attack on Iran is not the same as war. It’s just blowing stuff up. There’s a big difference really.

  7. #4
    Couple one of those with a nuclear warhead and it wouldn’t have to be accurate. Just in the vicinity.

  8. Repeat, from over at Ace:

    Come on, guys, look at the pictures.

    Compare the trucks. Look at the launchers. Those aren’t 2,000 mile-range-missiles. RIA Novosti has them at 350 km, call it 200 miles. They’re theater-grade missiles, artillery substitutes.

    2,000 mile-range-missiles are big and heavy. You do not launch them from trucks, and you most assuredly don’t launch them at an angle, because they fall over before they get enough speed up to continue. You might carry them around on trucks, but you raise them to a vertical position and get the truck out of the way for launching.

    Those are glorified skyrockets, about the size of a big SAM or the ones we use for missile defense. They’re a tactical threat, not a strategic one.


  9. Pingback: Who Knew Iranian were into “Faux”tography … Just a Few Too Many Missiles in the Pic | Scared Monkeys

  10. I like the one with Wile E Coyote and the Amadidawhackjob Clone tool one.

  11. “Just in the vicinity.”

    – They are presently using “bang-bang” guidance, circa 1950’s. With that sort of guidance “in the vicinity” could be the Mediterranean, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Or even the Kurdish end of Iraq.

    – I don’t think the 12th dude would be in favor of hitting one of their own allies.

    – Of course they will improve. the problem is, those were the same 7 missiles that you;’ve seen in dozens of parades that they bought on the Russian black market. So they’ll need to restock. So far the Russians have been smart enough not to sell them the good stuff. But whether they buy or improve on their own, there will come a day when they have the launch capability. Best guess right now is five years.

    – Problem is, the Israelis don’t have the luxury of guessing wrong. SemiClueless’s comments aside, that conclusion doesn’t take rocket science. I’m taking a wild guess that if the Iranians were targeting his house, his comments would take on a decidedly different tone.

  12. Great photo! Very funny. But the topic of Iran playing wargames to show off its military abilities really IS a scary story.

  13. – BTW, the consensus at present is the driver is Bush’s term coming to an end. Israel can’t take the chance that an appeaser in the WH might reduce support for them, playing into the Iranians hands to stall for time with the negotiations game, while they continue to pursue their nuclear goals.

    – You listen to Obama talk, and hes either dangerously naive, or a total nutcase.

    – Remember, Israel is faced with an existential threat. A few well placed nuclear devices, and the country simply ceases to exist.

  14. I’ve asked this before, and never seem to get an answer. ‘Cleo: how many dead Israelis do you want before you take Iran’s threats seriously? A thousand? A million? Give us a milestone, here.

  15. Karl;

    Mind-meld with Maguire again and convey the good sense of BBH and Ric.

    The Bush Admin is actually benefiting from on-th-job-training,

    Mother Jones link. [Reformatted. -K]

  16. Comment by Semanticleo on 7/11 @ 7:18 pm #

    Do you speak English?

  17. Yeah, for those who didn’t read the galrahn thing, he’s by no means arguing that the rocket test is indicative of Iranian capability or intent. Indeed, he/they are looking more at the political side of things — what China and Japan are now saying, the Dems fially moving on FISA, near-future movements of Navy groups, etc.

    If we were just talking about Iran’s thinking, it’s pretty clear that they are not thinking rocket strike. If attacked, they threaten the Strait of Hormuz or — the “bill” galrahn mentions — terrorism.

  18. “If attacked, they threaten the Strait of Hormuz or — the “bill” galrahn mentions — terrorism.”

    The clear and present danger is our troops in Iraq, which explains part of Bush’s reluctance to
    accept the projections of Israel. (see link)

  19. Best guess right now is five years.

    And I guess the Democrats’ best hope is that either Obama has been rendered a mere figurehead by then (first year of a hoped-for, by them, second term) or been Cartered out of office either by Hillary or a Republican.

  20. oh. I didn’t get that bill thing at all. I got confused and NG and I started talking about if you had a 24-hour concierge in your building what exactly would that be good for. We didn’t come up with very much really.

  21. – Well I don’t know about terrorist threats, but if they actually tried to close Hormuz, the 12 speedboats they own would sleep with the fishes in less than an hour. Thats a total specious threat, unless they’re both stupid and crazy, because after that they’d have no way to even patrol borderline areas, leaving them with zero intel. Moeover, they’d gain nothing save yet another loss of face.

  22. BBH,

    That’s why galrahn is more concerned about retaliatory terrorism.

  23. – Ok Karl, that time nailed it. If we don’t use a “text” word for the link, the full link blows up the formating.

  24. He’s talking about #15 I think. You won’t notice it in IE I don’t think.

  25. – I know feets, I have both browsers. Just trying to determine what will work well with either.

  26. Right. I ruined one of Dan’s threads like that today. He’s not gonna be happy when he gets home.

  27. For various reasons, I am often forced to use IE, so I’ll usually catch those, whereas Dan will catch the FF format borkers. Should be okay now, yes?

  28. very perfect

  29. – Yes. That did it. I use FF with text blowup – the eyes are shot. IE doesn’t have that feature, or at least text size changes don’t work on the PW page with IE, but I wouldn’t be able to read anything.

    – I checked with IE and it was ok, but I’m thinking thats the reason. Awhile back I checked the source code and I noticed an extra set of “title” tags within the normal href code lines. thats probably what IE ignores. An the full links do not hold to the comment block formatting for some reason. Must be a function of the editor.

  30. Here you go. They’re Scuds (or one of the multiplicity of derivatives).

    Somebody else suggested they might be Sunburns, which have about half again the range and much better guidance (being newer). The principle is the same. Even the Scud is not a contemptible weapon; it shouldn’t be, having been developed and tweaked by ten or more countries over the course of forty years — sixty, if you count that they started with the V2 to get the design.

    Those aren’t Jew-killers. They might be a hazard to our bases in Iraq, especially if they’re Taedongs (or Shahabs, same thing with a different logo). They could give the Afghanis problems, or the Pakistanis if they were moved ‘way down south into the country that killed Alexander.

    The question then becomes even more urgent: What the f* are they up to? Some hypotheses:

    1) The mullahs can’t tell the difference, and this was supposed to be scary.
    —If that’s the case, I sure as Hell wouldn’t want to be an Iranian Missile Command senior officer right now.

    2) The mullahs know the difference, and this is intended as a peace offering — “Look, we can’t do anything. What are you worried about?”
    —Which I believe is Semanticleo’s position, to the extent that she has one.

    3) The mullahs know the difference, and this is still intended to be scary.
    —Which is genuinely scary. It means they’re fools, and if there’s anything on the planet scarier than a fool with a weapon I don’t know what it might be.


  31. Ric,

    Another hypothesis; It’s done for internal consumption. “Hey folks, it might seem like our jerkoff behavior is setting us up for an attack, but we can defend ourselves.”

  32. Personally I think they are intended to rattle the democrats and their media, who haven’t a clue what missiles do except that they know they are supposed to be scared of them.

  33. Oil had just a lot fallen too.

  34. True hf, it had, though not enough to hurt them nor help us.

  35. Y’all do remember Saddam firing Scuds at Tel Aviv and what crap they were for accuracy, falling just about anywhere, including in the sea.

  36. Maybe I guess on the oil thing, but you need to nip these things in the bud, when you’re an Iranian. Iranians a lot live in a world where you either fire the missiles or you don’t fire the missiles. Kind of like when you give a little kid a five dollar bill or one of those really big chocolate bars.

  37. They really are in a poor position to be advertising their offensive deterrent capabilities, as they don’t have any. Their best bet even sucks in the end: they say “we’ll do everything we can to put and end to simple oil supply, which will jack the price 2 or 3 fold and kill your economies” which of course, effectively kills their own even worse off economy. It’s like the guy in the joke: Stop right where you are or I’ll shoot this man (pointing gun at his own head).

  38. Which of course is why they want nukes so bad.

  39. We should just blow up their nuclear shit already I think. The CIA thinks that’s a bad idea, so what are we waiting for?

  40. “….and what crap they were for accuracy…”

    – The previous comment about “large skyrockets” is effectively correct, but they can kill you just as dead as a modern missile. Ask the 23 Marines that died in that chowhall.

    – One of the ironies of desert storm is the Scuds Saddam was using had such wildly erratic tracks the Patriots weren’t setup to follow such a nutty trajectory. I mean you figure the other guy knows a plastic body missiles (they actually significantly flatten when you lay them on the level) isn’t going to do so well if it doesn’t have at least enough guidance to avoid wild gyrations. Saddam went to war with what he had. So it was a case of over estimating the expected armaments he could use against us. We had more than enough accuracy, just not enoigh of a “kill cone” of engagement.

    – Sometimes when your goal is to terrify and confuse (shock and awe and a much lower scale) simple and cheap is better.

    – The press never heard about that, and the military isn’t interested in educating the enemy.

    – As usual, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

  41. We should just blow up their nuclear shit already I think. The CIA thinks that’s a bad idea, so what are we waiting for?


  42. oh. That’s frustrating. We really should have started work right after 9/11 on the giant indestructible robot I think. But that’s sort of easy to say in hindsight.

  43. Hey. On point but you have to click fast probably. Look at the top story on Google News. It’s two days old.

    US plays down fears of war with Iran

    That’s weird is all. Pretty crazy algorithm, huh.

  44. “Comment by happyfeet on 7/11 @ 8:12 pm #

    komodo dragons”

    Are disgusting….

    “Komodo dragons also possess virulent bacteria in their saliva, of which more than 28 Gram-negative and 29 Gram-positive strains have been isolated.[23] These bacteria cause septicemia in their victim; if an initial bite does not kill the prey animal and it escapes, it will commonly succumb within a week to the resulting infection.”

    From wikipedia.

  45. Sdferr, don’t count too much on that. “Scud” is a generic name for the basic design; there are a huge number of variants. Those were Scud-B and Scud-C, almost the most primitive version. The Russians haven’t continued development that I know of, but the North Koreans (especially) and several others have, and the latest ones have good guidance, with a CEP in the 200-meter range — plenty good for attacking one of our bases or a city. These are not your early-model Scud.

    Karl, I can easily believe that the launch was propaganda aimed at the home market. The question then becomes: in a regime that maintains KGB-level control over foreign journalists, most of whom don’t have the language or any local contacts that aren’t closely monitored, how did the pictures get out?

    And happyfeet, I’m sorry to tell you that that ain’t gonna happen. The United States isn’t going to participate directly unless the Iranians do something really stupid — mass attacks across the Iraqi border, sink ships in the Strait, something like that. I have less certainty about what the Israelis will do, but if they trust the American ABM system (which they should, since they had a huge hand in developing it) I don’t think they’ll attack the nuclear facilities at all. The targets will be economic and military — tanker terminals, pipelines, and refineries at the top of the list. If the US does get involved, our first priority will be the naval bases in the Strait. One wild card: the Iranians have a bunch of big, old tankers sitting around full of oil, enough to make a real impact on world supply. Suppose Special Forces hijacked them…


  46. Oh. But then that’s for real war. I retract my #6 then.

  47. (pumping you up)

    Now that’s funny.

  48. Sorry, Semanticleo. Carry on being all flabbergasted and all.

  49. But wait — happyfootie tops that:

    I think you kind of have to be in a certain mood to read Mr. Galrahn.

    I imagine happy in the corner, twiddling its footies, looking up to all the commenters with a hopeful crooked grin . . .

    I’m done. You are parody yourselves better than I can.

    Night, Darleen.

  50. One of the ironies of desert storm is the Scuds Saddam was using had such wildly erratic tracks the Patriots weren’t setup to follow such a nutty trajectory

    Not so funny, BBH. The Russians noticed, and their latest missiles do that on purpose — they deliberately sacrifice a little range to have enough fuel left to make the missile follow an incredibly erratic course. I don’t remember or have the URL where I saw it, but the missile’s track looks like something Wile E. Coyote’s Acme missile would do. It ain’t funny. “Jinking” is one of the oldest and most dependable methods of evading an attack. That’s one dangerous missile.


  51. Repeat, from over at Ace

    That’s just nasty.

  52. I’m looking at you Ric.

  53. I imagine the Patriot has been just a tad improved since then.

  54. I learned a lot in this thread. I’m looking at you, Ric.

  55. I learned a lot in this thread.

    Winner! YaY!

  56. If everyone who reads Ace would just give him a dollar, he would be a millionaire.

    Why do you all hate Ace?

  57. – Absolutely unfunny Ric, I believe thr term I used was “ironic”. But whatever.

    – The Left promised we’d score a ton of oil for attacking Ieaq. Wtf is it?

  58. Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iraaaaan
    Good for ’79 good for ’09

  59. Here you go, BBH. No video, though. I don’t think the Russians are going to give them away, and Persians might not appreciate the name…


  60. Who said we hate Ace? Besides you, Masui?

  61. “how did the pictures get out?”

    – Well at one time the AP had an arab affairs press office with a staff of 24. With all the cutbacks in the foriegn press I don’t know if thats still true, but at that time almost everything released to the West came through either there or al Jazerra.

    – Or maybe Pelosi has Ahmadinejad’s number on her cell, right next to FARQ’s.

  62. OT: Masui, do you have a point that wouldn’t be concealed by a good hairpiece?

  63. – You think the Russians sold them the Alexa Ric?

    – The one in the photo they duped 3 more times doesn’t look right for that body shape. More like the NK version.

  64. Jealous Masui isjealous.

  65. No, BBH, the ones in the pictures are the wrong shape — long thin cylinders instead of cones. The launchers are wrong, too. That isn’t Iskander. Those are Scuds (actually they’re probably Shahab-1s, which are Scud derivatives.)

    It must be interesting to be an Iranian general officer about now, no? If I had to bet, it would be that the missiles in the picture were old ones; the mullahs said to launch some missiles, and the generals decided that since they were performing an exercise in futility they might as well get rid of the obsolete crap. That would be consistent with the launch failures — stale igniters or stuck pumps, perhaps. If so, those might be the last of the Taedong-2s.


  66. – That makes sense from two standpoints. They’ve shown painted over Taedong’s in several parades, although hard to tell the version but the NK isn’t going to be selling anything very new.

    – That, plus the Israeli take-out of that Syrian AE plant make the connection between Iran and the NK, although that chuminess might have dropped off a bit after that episode.

    – I just don’t see the Russians or the Koreans selling them anything modern. I get the feeling that the other Nutbag countries are happy to let Iran run with this whole crazy Mullah thing and keep their distance basically.

  67. Well, they got Taedongs but used up most of them — I had known but had forgotten that the Iran-Iraq war included missile exchanges. The ones they have left are getting past their operational life, so if there were any it makes sense to use them up in what is essentially a fireworks display.

    I’m actually less interested in that than I am in trying to follow enough to try to get the mindset of the Iranians. The expats I knew were fiercely patriotic, and even the ones who couldn’t say “Shah” without spitting were sort of… I dunno, proud might be the word. Reza Pahlevi might’ve been a nasty asshole, but he was their nasty asshole and quite good at it. The mullahs are stone ignorant, but I get the sense that the Iranian military and tech people are going along with them in the same way our military shrugs and tries to go ahead and do the stupid crap the politicians hang on them — a human universal, perhaps.


  68. – I don’t know. Its a wide gap of possibilities. The biggest part of my interface with the Iranians, other than personal friendships with local expats, was with the tech types, and that was way back in the early 70’s before the Shah thing. They’re all dead or old men now, so it depends on how well they transfered the training to their kids. I see shots of the processing facilities, admittedly who knows how current they are, and they look pretty crude.

    – Added to that, you have the usual mad leader syndrome of the difference between what is being reported, what is being hyped for popular indigeonous consumption, and the actual truth on the ground. The “Saddam syndrome”. The Royal guard had 1200 big tanks so they were invincible”. We took them out in less than a day.

    – Lot of crazy pudding there when you mix in culture. A bunch of our Fighter aircraft that for want of parts, ended up being good flower pots.

  69. The Iranians I knew were pretty good techs. The Tomcats aren’t down for lack of competent maintenance, they’re down for lack of spare parts. F14s need a lot of spare parts.

    The central thing on the mind of a (sane) Iranian general at the moment has to be the ’86-88 war, contrasted with today’s situation. Technically the Iranians won that, but from outside the system it looks a lot like a stalemate — which would tend to indicate that both sets of armed forces were roughly comparable, no? Then the US came in and didn’t bother to wipe the floor with Iraq’s troops because they weren’t good enough for dusting rags. Five years later, the people who treated Saddam like a wornout speed bump are saying that the Iraqi troops are pretty good… hmmm. There hasn’t been any notable improvement in Iran’s troops in that time. Double hmmmm.

    Which is, I think, why the Iranian military is going along with the mullahs in seeking a nuclear capability. Think us, waiting in the Fulda Gap. I would have a lot of sympathy for them if they weren’t letting their political leadership be such asses.

    Signing off. G’night.


  70. It’s the hidden iman!

  71. I may be remembering wrong… I think this is a Ric thing he was talking about recently.

    Japanese cotton spinning firm Nisshinbo Industries Inc has developed a technology to use carbon instead of platinum as the electrode catalyst for fuel cells…

  72. oh. Ric wasn’t supposed to be linked, I think this was. I shouldn’t do this when I’m on the phone really, but I thought that was kind of interesting.

  73. Well I mean I thought someone else would find that interesting.

  74. Anyway, Ric and Cookies and LD and neo talked about the platinum thinger here. So now it’s kind of moot maybe. The quickening and all that I guess.

  75. You know, the photo-shopped picture of fake missiles, could be Iran’s way of warning us of how embarrassing it can be to say you are one thing, provide fake pictures, just to have people, in the end, find out that you are not at all what you say you are.

  76. Halter Bra on Manly Unmanly Men Acting Unmanly to Prove Manliness


  77. Aw shit. Tony Snow has died.

  78. He was a good person.

  79. Re: #72
    That Yahoo link has been taken down so here is one from Reuters.

  80. Tony Snow is someone who should be studied. If you’re attitude is half as positive as Tony Snow’s was, you can’t help but be happy.

    If happiness is what you’re after.

  81. Somebody agrees with me, although I appear to have some details wrong. (credit: Orrin Judd)


  82. Snow was a refreshing breath of fresh air in the miasma of the MSM.

    He’ll be missed.

  83. Comment by happyfeet on 7/12 @ 2:00 am #

    Anyway, Ric and Cookies and LD and neo talked about the platinum thinger here. So now it’s kind of moot maybe. The quickening and all that I guess.


    Thanks for that link. I’ve had a crazy few days, and hadn’t seen that comment.

    You, BBH, and Ric are always adding to my understanding of “things”, and I thank you all for that. I knew I had seen something that said the platinum had to be replaced, and I guess I just assumed that was so because it was used up.

    But if I am understanding correctly, it is still very expensive when it does get replaced. I know that when I had to replace my catalytic converter, it cost me a lot more money than a tank of gas!

    Anyone got a link to the reference to the Japanese carbon technology thingie? Sounds interesting, if it’s true. It could even be the golden bullet that everyone has been looking for to bring fuel cells into the real world.

    But what are we going to do with the gazzillion gallons of water that fuel cells create? H2o is the “evilest” of GW gasses.

  84. Lost Dog,

    Automotive catalytic reactors normally use palladium, which is less effective than platinum but much cheaper (though still expensive). They normally aren’t recycled, largely because if they have to be replaced it’s because they’re contaminated by nasty stuff. The combination of having to deal with hazardous contaminants and the difficulty of getting the palladium out of the ceramic matrix makes it uneconomic.

    A working replacement for platinum-group catalyst metals would be a really big thing. Catalytic action is a function of the arrangement of electrons and bonding sites on the surface of the atom, so it’s plausible that any such replacement might be done with carbon, which has an really intricate set of bonding sites that can be manipulated and combined in an astonishing number of ways — there’s a whole field, “organic chemistry”, devoted to studying them.


  85. “…The previous comment about “large skyrockets” is effectively correct, but they can kill you just as dead as a modern missile. Ask the 23 Marines that died in that chowhall. …”

    The point of “crap for accuracy” you responded to, BBH, was not, of course, that the crap missile doesn’t have the capability to kill anyone and engender grief and sadness in their relatives and countrymen. The point was that, in strategic terms (as in who wins by firing such things against the US and its allies) these sorts of missiles with conventional warheads, and even somewhat better ones, are ultimately insufficient means for the ends desired (assuming the ends desired are not defeat and annihilation, but rather battlefield or at least, as with Tet ’68, propagandistic success).

    Saddam managed to kill a number of US servicemen/women and a number of Israeli civilians with his missiles. Precautionary burdens fell on both the Israelis and the fighting allies, as it could not be known whether the missiles would come in with chemical or biological warheads. In the event, neither of those possibilities happened, most likely because the follow-on retaliation would have been too severe, which Saddam well understood. Some resources were used up in attempted defense, sure.

    In an earlier war he killed Iranians with them and his own citizens were killed by the Iranians in like fashion. I would argue that neither of these sets of facts had a positive material outcome in either of these wars for Saddam, and that this could have been predicted before the firings took place.

    So also do I believe, should the Iranians post-hypothetical Israeli strike choose to rain medium range missiles bearing conventional warheads down on bases in Iraq and manage to kill US personnel, that use of those weapons will not gain the Iranians any strategic advantage contributory to the ultimate outcome they may be presumed to desire. It will as noted burden our efforts in defense but not so much as to decide who wins the fight.

    (Except in the silly sense the Firesign theater guys used to say in a japanese accent circa 1974 “So, who won seconda worrd war, you think you so smart?”)

  86. #86
    Consider what they have now a test bed. Count on the fact that they are actively working to improve them. Both in range and accuracy.
    Unlike the MSM pundits who see this latest as a plea by Iran for negotiations with the west, I consider it a loaded gun aimed at our head. A blunderbuss will kill you just as dead as a .50 Barret.
    A confrontation is just around the corner.