Iranian Shahab-3 test launch (AP file photo via Jerusalem Post)
From Iran's dubious Assar Iran website comes the day's most laughable claim. According to the site--which is affiliated with the Iranian government--Tehran will fire 600 Shahab-3 missiles at Israel (and U.S. targets in Iraq) if either Iran or Syria is attacked.
The vow (which has no basis in fact) was reprinted up by the Jerusalem Post, which ought to know better:
"Iran will shoot at Israel 600 missiles if it is attacked," the Iranian news website, Assar Iran, reported. "600 missiles will only be the first reaction."
For the record, Iran actually has two missiles capable of reaching Israel, the Shahab-3 (with a maximum range of 800 miles, and the recently-delivered BM-25, a North Korean derivative of the Soviet-designed, SS-N-6 submarine launched ballistic missile (maximum range: 1500 miles). The operational status of the BM-25 is uncertain; a German diplomat reported last March that Iran had acquired 18 disassembled missiles from North Korea, presumably with a smaller number of launchers. Iran has never conducted a test launch of the BM-25, so it's unclear if the missile would be available for operations against Israel and U.S. targets in the Middle East.
As for the Shahab-3, that system attained its initial operating capability less than three years ago, after a long and troubled development. Most estimates place the number of Shahab-3 airframes in Iran at no more than 40, with a launcher inventory of less than half that total. Obviously, the number of available launchers is critical, since it limits the number of missiles that can be fired at any given time. So much for that 600 missile salvo.
It should be noted, however, that Iran uses the Shahab designation for many of its mobile missiles. If you include the Shahab-2 (Tehran's version of the SCUD C), plus various battlefield rockets, then the Iran could muster a larger a larger mass launch, but nothing on the scale claimed by that website. And only a fraction of those missiles (Shahab-3s and BM-25s) would be capable of reaching Israel. Additionally, if you assume that Iran would keep some of its medium and intermediate-range missiles in reserve, then the size of Tehran's opening salvo against Israel would be further reduced.
That's the good news. The bad news is that U.S. facilities in the Persian Gulf region present a much more accessible target, and many can be reached with a wider variety of missile systems. However, you may recall that President Bush ordered the deployment of Patriot batteries to the region earlier this year, to provide additional protection for our forces--and our allies. A very prudent move, to say the least.