Monday, September 20, 2010

The Iranian Ballistic Missile Hype

By Mark Pyruz

Lieutenant Colonel John D. Johnson, a U.S. Army Senior Fellow assigned to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, has a paper published over at the Small Wars Journal blog, titled "The Iranian Ballistic Missile Threat And a “Phased, Adaptive Approach” to Missile Defense for Europe." Download it here.

There are many problems with this brief. Right off the bat, claiming Iran is a "Persian country" ignores the fact that the country possesses relatively large minority populations, such as Azaris, Turkomans, Kurds and even Arabs. Both Iran's Supreme Leader and Head of the Armed Forces General Command Headquarters are actually Azari, not Persian.

In addition, Iran's threat perception goes beyond the presence of Western militaries in Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes nuclear-armed USAF and USN forces based in Qatar and Bahrain, the use of which President Obama has stated could be used against Iran in a first-strike nuclear attack. And Iran's threat perception includes Israel's nuclear arms stockpiles, deliverable by its own MRBM forces. (Why is this not mentioned?)

Contrary to LTC Johnson's assertion the international community "has gone to great lengths to engage Iran diplomatically," the truth of the matter is that the goal posts for Iran's nuclear negotiations have constantly been shifted by their Western interlocutors. Consider the failure of the 2003 Paris Agreement, as well as the more recent 2010 Tehran Declaration, as just two major examples.

Nowhere in this brief are any credible scenarios provided for Iranian MRBM strikes against Greece, Romania, Bulgaria or Turkey. That's because the threat of such simply does not exist.

The notion that Iran could deploy an ICBM capable of striking the US by 2015 is pure fantasy. More than that, it defies logic. True, Iran is developing larger rockets. But nowhere in this brief is an explanation provided for Iran's need at self-sufficiency in hoisting satellites into space (they've been refused such by a number of commercial rocket-equipped countries). For Iran's defense, which is based on deterrence, the region itself is a target-rich environment. Potential retaliatory strikes are available in every direction. It is logical for Iran's military industrial complex to put resources into further developing its SRBM and MRBM forces, in order to better deter its real adversaries in the region- the US and Israel- than to put massive resources into a ICBM crash program for targets which don't offer anywhere near a corresponding, congruent deterrence value (not to mention the potential liabilities incurred in fielding such weaponry).

It's actually amazing that LTC Johnson didn't mention Iran's deterrent-based defense strategy or provide any credible Iranian SSM first-strike scenarios. Also, references to Israel's WMD capabilities are brief and almost non-associative to the threat of war involving Iran's SSM forces. Are we really to believe that countries such as Greece and Bulgaria constitute a risk factor of war involving Iran greater than that posed by Israel? If so, that would be absurd.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The article you referenced is a pretty good example of the typical, fact-free mis-information we've seen before in relation to so called threats from the middle east (remember the story about Iraq being able to launch chemical-tipped ICBMs in about 45 min?).

Thanks for the clear analysis.

- Zaki