NEW YORK - 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 yesterday.
"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 website 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 criticism from Washington.
Many news organizations, including The Globe, used the picture before questions were raised yesterday about its authenticity.
The photo on the Sepah News site was replaced yesterday 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.
The image with four launches was taken off the Sepah site's main news page, but both photos were on its archive yesterday.
Fitzpatrick, a former State Department official who followed arms control issues, said he believes the photo was manipulated after the missile malfunctioned.
There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials.