Vernuccio’s View: Iran’s Growing Missile Threat

Frank Vernuccio

Frank Vernuccio

By Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., Esq.

Tehran’s progress in missile technology points to the regime growing from a regional power to a major international threat. Iran’s missile technology advances, despite international sanctions.

Portions of Iran’s missile technology may soon rank among the world’s most advanced. Global Security reports that the nation is developing a supersonic maritime cruise missile. The nation has openly threatened the U.S. Navy, running mock attacks against its vessels, and engaging in training geared towards destroying American aircraft carriers.

According to the Iran Primer:

  • “Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. (Israel has more capable ballistic missiles, but fewer in number and type.) Most were acquired from foreign sources, notably North Korea. The Islamic Republic is the only country to develop a 2,000-km missile without first having a nuclear weapons capability.
  • Iran is still dependent on foreign suppliers for key ingredients, components and equipment, but it should eventually be able to develop long-range missiles over time, including an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM.
  • The military utility of Iran’s current ballistic missiles is limited because of poor accuracy, so missiles are not likely to be decisive if armed with conventional, chemical or biological warheads. But Tehran could use its missiles as a political or psychological weapon to terrorize an adversary’s cities and pressure its government.
  • Iran should not be able to strike Western Europe before 2017 or the United States before 2020—at the earliest.
  • Iran’s space program, which includes the successful launch of a small, crude satellite into low earth orbit using the Safircarrier rocket, proves the country’s growing ambitions and technical prowess.”

Kelsey Davenport, Greg Thielmann, and Daryl G. Kimball, writing in Arms note that “Tehran has carried out at least eight tests of medium-range systems in violation of a UN resolution… Iran has repeatedly asserted that it does not and will not in the future accept UN Security Council-imposed limits on its ballistic missile program…”

As noted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)“Iran has already made major progress in producing its own ballistic and cruise missiles. … it already has a major missile force…It is also clear that Iran has already had major technology transfers from North Korea and that it has been able to use its extensive network of purchasing offices and cover organizations to buy critical missile technology.” Among the key points made by CSIS:

  • Iran can probably acquire enough key technology through various cover organizations, under the guise of building its space program or by buying dual-use technology to make steady improvements in the accuracy and reliability of its missiles. The eight-year limit in the Iran nuclear arms agreement seems unlikely to have much impact on this aspect of Iranian capability.
  • Iran already has armed Hezbollah [which is known to be also operating in Latin America] with more accurate shorter-range missiles, as well as given it a much larger overall inventory it could use against Israel. It does not have to rely only on its own missile forces to present a more advanced threat.
  • The Arab Gulf states have only limited missile capabilities, and the Saudi ballistic missile force lacks the accuracy and lethality to do more than carry out retaliatory strikes on large area targets if Iran uses its missiles to attack Arab Gulf targets.”

The Times of Israel adds further worrisome news.  Ally Russia has provided both nuclear technology and the most modern weaponry to the Tehran regime. Recently, a long-range missile system has been deployed to protect Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, a strange move to make if the plant was only being used for civilian purposes. The S-300 weapon is the most advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile defensive system in the world.

 Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government.


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