Iran Apparently in Possession of

Looks as though Iran has used smoke and mirrors, adding a fourth missile to look its best in the photo at left.

Looks as though Iran has used smoke and mirrors, adding a fourth missile to look its best in the photo at left. (Sepah News Via Associated Press)

Friday, July 11, 2008; Page A15


It’s customary for nations to do a bit of chest-thumping as they are about to begin negotiations, which Iran has agreed to consider in a meeting next week with European Union official Javier Solana. The idea is to do something that your opponents will see as a sign of strength before talks begin, especially, in this case, when the talks involve your nuclear program.

This might explain the timing of Iran’s latest missile tests Wednesday. It might also explain what appears to be a bit of Photoshop work by Tehran to ensure the images were just so.

A photo on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Web site distributed Wednesday by Agence France-Presse showed four missiles launched simultaneously. That photo appeared on various Web sites Wednesday, including those of the New York Times and BBC News, and on the front pages of a number of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The Associated Press and Reuters distributed similar photos, but they showed only three missiles. The Washington Post used a Reuters image in yesterday’s paper.

Noted debunker Charles Johnson apparently spotted the photo doctoring Wednesday and posted it on his Web site,

AFP, citing analysts’ assessments, reported yesterday that the four-missile photo appeared to have had a little digital work done. “One of the missiles had apparently been added to the photograph using elements from the smoke trail and dust clouds from two of the other missiles,” AFP said. The goal apparently was to cover up “a misfiring of one of the missiles,” an expert told AFP.

Well, artistically, the three-missile shot used by The Post was clearly inferior. The symmetry was way off and all that. The gap between the middle missile and the one on the right is simply too large.

Artistic considerations aside, there are arms experts who say that multiple launches are seen as a way to overwhelm missile defense systems, and the Iranians may have wanted to illustrate that capability, as well.

Other Web sites reported that an Islamic Republic News Agency article Wednesday included a photo of what appears to be the same multiple missile launching. It was published in The Post in 2006. (Hey! We had it first!)

Staying Home, Getting Out

Speaking of photos . . .

Gas prices keeping you in town this weekend? Not to worry. There’s plenty to do. There’s a fine exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series at the Phillips Collection, and the National Gallery of Art has a stunning display of artifacts from Afghanistan.

If you’re pressed for time, the State Department has updated its excellent Bush Diplomatic Hall of Glory exhibit, which hails the 43rd president’s achievements in statecraft and features mostly family-album travel shots of Bush overseas with various leaders. The new exhibit features photos of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert— whose poll numbers are even lower than Bush’s.

Gone, finally, from the exhibit is that photo of Bush with former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, a complete loser who was kicked out in 2006. But we were disappointed that there is still no picture of Nouri al-Maliki, who replaced him. Bush has praised Maliki as “a good guy, a good man with a difficult job.”

On the other hand, maybe the omission is intentional, especially given the recent demands of Maliki and his ministers for a “timetable” for withdrawal of U.S. troops from their country.

Bush has adamantly rejected calls for timetables, saying that all they do is “embolden the enemy” and that they would allow al-Qaeda to take over the country or would leave it vulnerable to invasion from its neighbors. Like maybe Jordan or Kuwait.

K Street at 30,000 Feet

Tens of millions of the nation’s most frequent fliers have been asked to take on a major new task: lobbying Washington.

The nation’s major airlines e-mailed their best customers this week and asked them to write to Congress, urging quick action to reduce the skyrocketing cost of energy, which has been strangling the airlines’ already faltering profitability, Loop colleague Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reports.

As of last evening, the campaign had generated more than 300,000 messages to lawmakers, mostly via e-mail, a number expected to rise into the millions before long.

The extraordinary lobbying effort is the brainchild of the Air Transport Association, the airlines’ main trade group. Under its plan, a dozen big airlines have banded together with truck and bus interests, as well as their labor unions, to ask Congress to crack down on what they see as excessive speculation in the energy markets.

In an e-mail sent this week, one airline wrote that “unchecked market speculation and manipulation” have caused a surge in fuel prices that is hurting both airline travel and the economy.

People who receive the e-mails (who, by the way, include airline employees) are directed to a Web site, From there, they can insert their Zip code and automatically send a letter of protest to their elected officials.

Going to Carolina

Jeff Runge, assistant secretary for health affairs and chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security, has told folks there he’s leaving early next month. Runge, who had been head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2001 to 2005, is heading back home to the Charlotte area.

Dear Lunatic?

The South Korean Embassy writes to take issue with a Loop column item referring to Kim Jong Il as “president.” His official title, the e-mail said, is “chairman.” Of course, we know he is also called “Dear Leader.” We’ll just go back to our standard practice of calling him “lunatic.”