An Associated Press report about Iran’s July 3 missile tests, which has been printed in several sources, takes the Iranian government’s assertions about the range of these missiles at face value–a common mistake, despite Tehran’s clear interest in exaggerating its capabilities.
The story calls the tests “long-range,” although even the Iranian government said it “launched missiles from 300 to 1,300 kilometers [200 to 800 miles],” which is much shorter than what the U.S. government considers long-range (over 5,500 kilometers/3,500 miles).
Further, estimates of a missile’s range often assume only the weight of the missile itself, even though loading a heavy warhead would decrease the distance it can travel.
A report released by the East-West Institute in 2010 found that Iran would have a much harder time increasing the range of its missiles in the future:
Iran’s efforts to increase the range and payload of its ballistic missiles […] followed a strategy of gradually increasing the length of the fuel and oxidizer tanks of the original Nodong so that it can carry more propellant […] Further advances in Iran’s ability to produce rockets of greater range and payload will require new and major technological advances beyond those it has so far demonstrated.
Trusting Tehran’s assertions contributes to the false narrative that the threat from Iran is exploding and requires “decisive” action (setting aside for a moment the fact that no one can point to a decisive action that is likely to be successful, including a military strike). The bigger picture, which accounts for technological and other hurdles to Iran developing a deliverable nuclear weapon, shows that the United States and our allies have time for persistence and patience.