Iran Gives Iraqi, Yemeni Proxies New, Upgraded Qaher Ballistic Missiles
Iran is raising the stakes on two major Middle East warfronts by shipments of its new Qaher ballistic missile to the proxies fighting in Iraq and Yemen, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report.
Last week, Col. Fawzi al-Hassani, commander of the Iraqi army’s Nineveh Operation noted that “missiles from a number of countries, including Iran and the US, were being sent to the Iraqi army.”
Tehran has sent the Qaher-1 missile to the pro-Iran Iraqi Shiite Hashid al-Shaabi militia, which first came into being in 2015 to defend Baghdad, after the Iraqi army caved in against the ISIS sweep across the country. Although the Americans excluded this militia from the Mosul offensive against ISIS, its Shiite fighters last week started firing Qaher missiles at the town’s Old City from a distance as a reminder of their existence.
The Qaher-1 is described by military experts as a ballistic missile with a range of 400km, weighing 350 kg and a target accuracy of 5-10 meters. It is based on the Iranian Tondar-69 which itself was developed in 1992 from the Russian S-75 SAM missile.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebel forces were given a more advanced version, the Qaher-M2, which intelligence experts say is more accurate than the Qaher-1.
On March 28, the Houthis displayed a Qaher-M2 in a parade outside the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Its appearance put the record straight on the Houthi missile attack against a mosque in a government military camp in the Al-Maarib province of eastern Yemen. Launched on March 17 during Friday prayers, the missile caused the deaths of 26 pro-government soldiers.
Yemen’s vice president Lt. Gen Ali Mohsen Saleh Al-Ahmar condemned the “heinous terrorist crime.” The Houthi rebel news agency claimed to have fired an older Iranian missile, Zelzal-1, as well as artillery fire. However, analysis of missile fragments identified it as a Qaher-M2.
In the last week of March, Tehran stepped up the quantity, variety and sophistication of its arms shipments to the Yemeni rebels. The latest included advanced Iran-made Ababil unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with high explosive warheads, which the Houthis are now using against high-value targets such as radar and Patriot missile defense batteries.
The US, Saudi and United Arab Emirates fleets, which back government forces against the pro-Iran insurgency, are helpless to put a stop to this flow of arms to the rebels. Last year, their patrols of Yemeni shores stopped them getting through by sea. However, Tehran has now developed an overland route. Unmarked truck convoys carrying war materiel roll across the border through Oman and into Yemen away from hostile fire.