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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Iran Refining Missile Capabilities: Pentagon
The United States believes Iran is still bolstering the capacity of its ballistic missiles to wreak damage and hit objects with precision, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday (see GSN, July 3).
“Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems by improving accuracy and developing new submunition payloads” to spread damaging force across a larger space than standard explosive charges, the Defense Department said in a June 29 analysis provided last week to four legislative panels and acquired by Bloomberg.
The document warns that Iranian preparation of personnel in ballistic missile operations “continues throughout the country,” and the construction of “new ships and submarines” is also under way.
If Tehran receives “sufficient foreign assistance," it "may be technically capable of flight-testing” an ICBM before 2016, the Pentagon said in affirming a prior U.S. determination.
The document, endorsed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, was provided to lawmakers in line with a requirement established in fiscal 2010 for yearly public and confidential analyses of Iranian armed forces capabilities. Iranian capacities to contain Western power are among subjects explored in the public assessment.
“There was a theme that Iran is improving the accuracy and lethality of its missiles,” Congressional Research Service Iran expert Kenneth Katzman said.
“U.S. government reports have previously always downplayed the accuracy and effectiveness of Iran’s missile forces,” he added. “The report seemed pretty sober and respectful of Iran’s capabilities, crediting Iran with improving survivability."
The Defense Department warned that the Persian Gulf power “would present a formidable force while defending Iranian territory.” Katzman described the language as an apparent “signal to advocates of military action against Iran, suggesting any action on Iranian soil will carry risk.”
Israel and the United States have repeatedly hinted at the possibility of an armed offensive against Iranian atomic capabilities relevant to nuclear-bomb development. Tehran insists its atomic ambitions are purely nonmilitary in nature (see related GSN story, today).
“We assess with high confidence” that Iran in the past three decades “has methodically cultivated a network of sponsored terrorist surrogates capable of targeting U.S. and Israeli interests,” the Pentagon document adds. “We suspect this activity continues.”
Iranian preparations continue on ballistic missiles suited to strike potential hostile targets, including Israeli and Eastern European sites, the paper's authors wrote. Related efforts involve a longer-distance Shahab 3 ballistic missile and a delivery vehicle capable of traveling 1,240 miles, they said.
Center for Strategic and International Studies specialist Anthony Cordesman said the assessment seems to verify an Iranian intermediate-range, solid-fuel delivery system's recent entry into service, as well as upgrades to the Shahab 3 missile's submunitions and precision capabilities.
The Defense Department said that in a move comparable to efforts by China, Tehran is “developing and claims to have deployed short-range ballistic missiles with seekers that enable the missile to identify and maneuver toward ships during flight" (see GSN, March 19).
“This technology also may be capable of striking land-based targets,” the Pentagon study adds (Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg, July 10).
This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.