Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Syria

SCUD-D vs. Fateh-110

The SCUD-D (above) vs. the Fateh-110 (below).

The Syria-Hizbullah-SCUD crisis has generated an incredible amount of press in the last week. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman was dressed down yesterday before Congress for defending Obama’s engagement policy with Syria, and Foreign Policy alone has carried something like three opinion pieces about the issue just in the past couple of days.  (For an up-to-date survey of all the most recent stories, I suggest checking Syria Comment.)

What nobody seems to be asking, though, is why these hypothetical SCUDs are so much more “game-changing” than all of the other armaments that have apparently flowed to Hizbullah from Syria since 2006, and in particular the Fateh 110 missile. The two rockets, when you compare them, are not hugely different, at least when one considers the geographical and strategic context that we’re dealing with. Let’s compare the specifications:

Ok, so the SCUD-D can travel farther than the Fateh 110, and it can carry a heavier payload. But how important are these differences, strategically speaking? The Fateh 110’s range is around 200-250 km, which is far enough to strike Tel Aviv from as far north as Beirut. Sure, a SCUD-D could hit Be’er Sheva from Tripoli, but is that really the definition of “game-changing”?

Plus, the SCUD is more difficult to hide, harder to maneuver, and probably easier to shoot down than the Fateh 110. If you were an Israeli, what would you rather face? A dozen SCUDs or a thousand Fateh 110’s?

I can’t help but wonder if all of the hullabaloo in the Western press isn’t stemming from the Soviet mystique of the SCUD, one of the most famous missiles in history, and the weapon used by Saddam against Israel in 1991. To put it in medieval terms, it would be like raising the threat level to DEFCON 1 because the enemy’s army (previously equipped with standard issue longswords) had just recently received a shipment of scimitars. Whoooooo, scimitars! They’re… umm, sharper.

Or am I being obtuse?

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29 thoughts on “SCUD-D vs. Fateh-110

  1. Not obtuse, just realistic. If the worry is really legitimate missile threats from Hezbollah, why did the cascade of alarmist op-eds and Congressional rhetoric wait for Israel’s dubious Scud report?

    Posted by hiddencities | April 22, 2010, 3:33 pm
  2. Sure, a SCUD-D could hit Be’er Sheva from Tripoli, but is that really the definition of “game-changing”?


    No. “Game-changing”, as we all know, is only when Jews move into predominantly Arab neighborhoods.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | April 22, 2010, 3:34 pm
  3. …Well it’s always wise to have a giant “Tipp-ex” pen when you use a giant green “Bic” pencil! You never know you might sign the wrong peace treaty…

    Posted by georges salameh | April 22, 2010, 3:37 pm
  4. QN,

    How far is Dimona from Litany? there you might find your answer!!

    Posted by danny | April 22, 2010, 3:46 pm
  5. I know not much, but I do know that Dimona is protected and underground and that neither a SCUD nor a Fateh 110 are accurate enough to reliably strike at Dimona, even if Dimona were vulnerable (which it is not). So danny, your point is in error.

    Posted by dontgetit | April 22, 2010, 4:26 pm
  6. and the weapon used by Saddam against Israel in 1991.

    I think part of it is definitely this. So many of the Obama Administration people on the Middle East are or were in bed with Israel (hell, some of them actually fought in the IDF), so SCUD missiles automatically bring back “Missiles might be raining down on Tel Aviv!” type of memories.

    Other than that, they’re just wary of any weapons headed Hezbollah’s way, particularly the type that might land on Tel Aviv.

    Posted by Brett | April 22, 2010, 4:35 pm
  7. #5…I doubt it that they would want scuds raining down on a nuclear facility even if its underground!!

    Then again it’s just an opinion! I don’t see any other reason!

    Posted by danny | April 22, 2010, 5:05 pm
  8. The Fateh SRBM is a superior weapon over the SCUD. For one, it uses solid propellant, so set up time is greatly reduced. And it is definitely more accurate.

    It’s always a source of amusement how a collection of SRBMs can be considered “game changing” over an aggressive adversary that regularly employs strike fighters, attack helicopters, main battle tanks, and holds in reserve an arsenal of somewhere between 300-500 fully deliverable nuclear weapons. I suppose “game changing” for these folks is just about anything beyond rocks be thrown at them, the oppressors.

    Posted by Pirouz | April 22, 2010, 5:24 pm
  9. evocative and provocative.

    No one in the states is going to worry about a Fateh-110, it means nothing to them.

    A scud on the other hand is all gulf war one/saddam/attacks on israel.

    Furthermore, the Fateh is a solid propellant and does not need a launcher while the scud needs massive transport and launch infrastructure – Does that sound like Hizballah?

    And why are even comparing to the Fateh when Hizballah may just as well have the Zelzal 2 which has similar warhead mass but can travel at least 100km more than the Fateh?

    The reason why?

    The conspiratorial says they are ramping up the casus belli for an attack on Lebanon – Its been a whole four years since they last go to do it after all.

    The pragmatic says they are trying to scuttle the US approach to dealing with Syria.

    The truth will be apparent if there suddenly appears more “evidence” that the regional balance (which is to say no balance at all) is being upset.

    And Danny,
    The missiles could be fired quite a bit north of the Litani and still reach Dimona. But not to worry, thats not the point of the missiles.

    Posted by mo | April 22, 2010, 5:37 pm
  10. Poor Lebanon.

    Could you have ever stopped Hezbollah?

    Posted by dontgetit | April 22, 2010, 6:50 pm
  11. Mo,

    Enlighten us!!

    Posted by danny | April 22, 2010, 9:22 pm
  12. I think the reason this is in the news is to provoke the USA into confronting Iran more directly. No one cares about Hizbullah in and of itself. But Israel worries about the Syria/Hizbullah/Iran relationship. And right now Israeli pressure is pushing Obama to take stronger action against Iran, and this is part of that equation. I think, also, that is why there has been increased talk of a war between Hizbullah and Israel, as a means to put pressure on the USA to take action against Iran.

    Also, and part of the same coin, this is deliberately a distraction to mask the failure of the “peace process”. It is generated by Israel so that they can have more room to move diplomatically, and try to change the subject away from the fact that they are a walking war crime (and move it back to something safe for them, in this case, the Iranian “threat”).

    The third reason is simply that it generally fits the stereotype story of “those people” being “a threat”. So it’s easier for these types of stories to get into the press than the story that Ali Khamenei gave an impassioned speech saying that nuclear weapons are evil and unislamic, or some other story that simply doesn’t fit the mold of the stupid American discourse.

    Posted by Joe M. | April 23, 2010, 2:06 am
  13. It is pragmatic to ask the question of why would a Scud create so much discussion when an equally deadly Fateh or even Zilzal does not. But may I suggest , very humbly, that to concentrate on the above is to miss the real issue.

    When a legitimate forces of a state acquire any kind of a weapon then a question is raised about the intended use of the arms in question. Whenever the rationale for the acquisition of such weapons is questionable then the issue is discussed and analysed in order to determine whether something can be learned about the intentions and the possible consequences if said weapons are deployed and put to use. I imagine that if say the Germans are to develop and effectively deploy an offensive weapons system on the French border then it would be legitimate to wonder about the German plans for these missiles. If it is true that even the actions of a legitimate state are at times to be questioned then wouldn’t one question the action of an illegitimate , illegal foreign funded, trained and armed militia?
    Does a political party in any society have the right to have its own militia that is even better equipped than the forces of the state? It is sad that we have to waste so much time and energy discussing what should be obvious. No militia has the right to exist in opposition to the laws of the land and as a result no militia has the right to acquire sophisticated weaponry through smuggling and in contravention of international law.
    The real question is not why do we react to one weapon system and not the other but rather whether the Hezbollah vigilantes have the right to acquire any weapon system.
    Pl;ease allow me to anticipate at least one potential reaction to the above. Many have pointed out in the past and I have no doubt that many will do the same today; they will express their disdain to the official Lebanese government and claim that Hezbollah is only doing what the stae has failed to do.
    That is a weak argument because it legitimizes lawlessness and vigilantism. If enough people feel agrieved then they do not have the right to take the law into their own hands but have a duty to change the structure that they object to either from within the system or by using force and rebelling against it. Yes there are cases where hybredization is not an option. One cannot be and not be at the same time.
    Until Hezbollah decide to stage a military coup they are under the moral and legal obligation to respect the law of the land and the rights of others. They have no right, under any set of circumstances, to endanger the peace and prosperity of a whole country through unilateral illegal acts. Remember that even the legitimate rights of one end where the nose of the other begin. And obviously when so called rights are illegitimate then they ought not to be exercised at all. The only way out of this quandry is for Hezbollah to dissolve its military wing.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | April 23, 2010, 8:16 am
  14. Ghassan Karam — everything you say is correct, but Lebanon has long passed that point and it does not appear that there is any turning back. Whatever role your “government” may have, foreign policy, especially as it concerns your borders with Israel and even Syria, is made by Hezbollah.
    At this point, you have two choices – make war with Hezbollah or let Hezbollah make war with Israel. Both will be costly and many Lebanese will die, but the second choice has the attraction of requiring no decision on your part. It will just happen.
    The first choice has not been available for a while, except at a high price. Perhaps the last opportunity to control your own country with minimal bloodshed was to enforce the cease fire terms as they applied to Hezbollah after the 2006 war. Israel had done much of the work for you. I don’t know if it was possible to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming, but that was your best opportunity to try.

    Posted by dontgetit | April 23, 2010, 10:52 am
  15. Gotta agree with ‘dontgetit”s last comment. As usual, I agree 100% with Ghassan Karam’s statement. But much like dontgetit@14 says, we’re long past that point of legitimate vs. illegitimate. For all intents and purposes, Lebanon as a state is held hostage by HA. The rest of the world (and specially Israel) considers HA to be the “government of Lebanon” for all intents and purposes.
    We can talk about them being illegitimate till we’re blue in the face, that is not going to change the fact that Lebanon has 2 choices (well, not really, but i’ll get back to that): 1-Eliminate HA has and reassert itself as a sovereign state or 2-Continue to to allow HA to be the effective government of Lebanon and bare the consequences (a very likely HA-Israel war).
    And clearly, option 1 is not gonna happen, because Lebanon is too divided, and the cost in lives of a new civil war is too big for any to fathom.
    So onwards to another HA-Israel war we go…

    I’ll give the Israelis credit on one thing they got right in all this: Lebanon is, essentially, to be considered Hezbollastan (or whatever they call it). That is the sad fact. Now if only the Lebanese would stop and realize they are now citizens of Hezbollastan….

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | April 23, 2010, 12:47 pm
  16. Mo,

    The weird part is that I think this ‘report’ came from your countrymen, not the Israelis. So when the Americans contacted the Israelis, they just laughed it off.

    Posted by david | April 23, 2010, 1:40 pm
  17. David,
    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was or even if the Kuwaitis just invented it but it was perez that kicked all this off – So I’m pretty sure the US and Israel both know it never happened but I think the Israelis rather see it as too good an opportunity to laugh it off – Well to laugh it off to the Americans faces at least….

    Posted by mo | April 23, 2010, 1:58 pm
  18. By the way, Mo, I assume you saw Abu Muqawama’s post on the Northrop Grumman advert currently adorning the Capitol South metro stop (right on the Hill).

    AM missed this, and you cannot really tell from that picture, but HA flags are all over the still standing building, i.e. the ‘enemy’ is still ‘in the picture,’ mostly cause ‘they’ cannot find ‘him.’

    Of course, the customer is always right (even when very, very wrong), but were the ad not grotesque, it would be exceedingly funny.

    Posted by david | April 23, 2010, 3:49 pm
  19. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

    The only difference between the SCUDS and the Fateh is that the SCUDS can carry WMD warheads. That is why Israel is not happy with the SCUDS. Their only use is to give Hizballah a WMD option.

    Posted by AIG | April 23, 2010, 4:37 pm
  20. David, I saw the post and was impressed by AM’s reaction to it (by the way, am I the only person who doesn’t believe anyone actually has Exum as a surname?).

    I did consider posting something in response asking if that was a quote from Hizballah’s actual strategy book for 2006…

    Posted by mo | April 23, 2010, 7:50 pm
  21. In Politics, timing of an event is often as important as the event itself. In a “time” when the relations between the US and the Israelis is strained because of the peace process, settlements, etc… A “threat” is a great way to put differences aside. My 2 cents.

    Posted by Caustic | April 26, 2010, 3:29 am
  22. I strongly agree on this one, except the range issue, which could mean more of Lebanon will be the fighting ground for the next round, should one occur.

    Posted by Yonatan Amir | April 29, 2010, 2:11 pm
  23. Another point to make is that HizbAllah getting the Scud is far more than just Israel. It is part of Iran’s Middle East strategy to keep its competition at bay. For example, the Scud D can reach as far as Cairo. Mubarak being one of most serious contenders for the title of Middle Eastern superpower, he wouldn’t want to see Iran with ability to hit him en-masse with the rockets.

    Posted by Jonathan Boyko | May 2, 2010, 3:13 pm
  24. Jonathan, Hizballah using any missiles against any Arab nation is totally off the radar, never going to happen

    Posted by mo | May 3, 2010, 9:15 am
  25. Well, after HizbAllah bombed Nazareth, killing several Palestinian children, I think a doubt could be cast over their intentions.

    Posted by Jonathan Boyko | May 3, 2010, 9:54 am
  26. I think that the news of syria supplying hizballah with Scuds are just rumours.

    Posted by sarmad | October 22, 2010, 6:30 am
  27. There is no democracy in Israel as a state is illegitimate and illegal and not recognized
    Evidence of this if anyone wanted to write a comment in the Israeli websites
    Does not allow him or be there are many obstacles to prevent him from writing a comment The reasons for Arab-Israeli conflict is the occupation of Palestine in 1948.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state like the rest of the Arab and Islamic states surrounding
    Them. Means that there are Jews and Zionists in Palestine a big mistake, because this entity
    Zionist is not consistent with the surrounding area (such as language, customs, traditions and religion)
    The only solution to end the Arab-Israeli conflict is the expulsion of Jews from Palestine
    All of Palestine. The Jewish people will not rest and will not feel comfortable and stability
    But if it gets out of Palestine and the Middle East completely. If people continue to
    Jews in Palestine and the Middle East, the death and destruction will continue.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state and will remain

    Posted by ARAB | November 2, 2010, 6:17 am
  28. Well, the previous comment makes sense to me. Let’s not allow people with thousands of years of history to live on the land they lived on for these thousands of years (according to archaeological evidence, close to 12,000 years now). Instead, let’s give all the land to the people who came centuries later, captured the land by force and declared it was theirs. It makes much sense to me.

    Posted by Jonathan Boyko | November 2, 2010, 5:38 pm
  29. The real “game changer” is an effective anti air defence, no more no less

    Posted by karoum | May 5, 2013, 5:03 am

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