Iran’s Ballistic Missile Deterrent: A Threat to Whom?

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Iran’s Ballistic Missile Deterrent: A Threat to Whom?

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

The United States and its (ever dwindling number of) allies have since the erection of the Islamic Republic in 1979 continually faulted the Iranian state for a series of behaviors which they argue prevent peace either to the region of the Middle East and Persian Gulf or – at any given moment when liberal statesmen and theorists become particularly vexed – to the world order of states itself.  The much maligned and much misunderstood ballistic missile program of the Islamic Republic currently holds pride of place as the key ingredient causing this Western indignation.  Begun during the War of Holy Defense that commenced with the invasion of the newly declared Republic by Saddam Hussein in 1980, successive Iranian presidents have continued to devote a consistent percentage of the state’s annual budget to what they view as a key to the nation’s conventional deterrence.

It is accepted as a principle of the international order that sovereign states have the right to defend themselves from aggression, and a corollary to this principle is the right to create and deploy an arrangement of armed forces for this purpose.  Deterrence, then, is the proper purpose for which these forces are created, although not a few states have waged aggressive war with the forces meant for defense.  The Iranian Republic has continually stated that the missile systems deployed and under development are solely for the purpose of a conventional defense.  Why then does the United States et al. continually harp on this facet of Iranian defense as a threat to peace here, there and everywhere?  Is this assertion reasonable or not?

Ever since the signing of the JCPOA, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has continuously assured the co-signers of his country’s abiding by its limits but at the same time has argued (correctly) that the ballistic missile program falls outside its bounds.  The US argues that the missiles under development are capable of carrying a nuclear payload, but Zarif has responded that it is not his country’s intention ever to build a nuclear weapon because they do not have a need and do not wish to further escalate an arms race in the region.  Lastly, there exists the religious sanction on such a project which Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued, and which the rulers of the Islamic Republic are duty-bound to obey.  Whether or not these are remonstrances made in good faith by Zarif is not the business of the US to judge, but the minister of state must be taken at his word.  In fact, Iran has, according to the IAEA, upheld its part of the JCPOA while the US has not.

Accepting, then, that the Iranians will not place nuclear warheads on their missiles because they do not intend, through both religious and diplomatic strictures, to create them, is there any reason for the United States to oppose the program?  What kind of missiles do the Iranians have?  Which countries do they consider as potential enemies and against whom they would logically tailor their missiles?

The longest range of which the Iranians are possessed comes through the Sejjil (سجیل), which can hit targets at a 2,000-km range.  The Sejjil and others like it serve primarily as a strategic deterrent with threat of force in numbers, although they can be used as tactical weapons, as seen in the 2017 Deir ez-Zor missile strike against ISIS.  The shorter range ballistic missiles serve as tactical weapons designed for local advantage in theater- or battlefield-level operations.

This strategic missile deterrent is Iran’s answer to the threat of aerial bombardment which several of the country’s cities suffered during the Holy Defense.  As Javad Zarif has pointed out many times, no country in the West has been subject to aerial attack with no critical means of defense as Iran was during that war.  The proper defense against such weapons is an anti-missile system, but since this lays years in the future due to technological and funding limitations, the only means available for Iran to counter such a threat is through an offensive ballistic missile program built for strategic deterrence.  With a large arsenal of accurate missiles able to hit targets within the borders of its geographically proximate potential enemies, Iran can assure itself if not of complete protection against a missile attack, at least of a promising counter-measure in the form of a high level of assured destruction of in-place military and infrastructure targets of the enemy.  This arsenal will stand in the place of an interceptor until the Iranians themselves can produce one, as it is highly unlikely they can purchase the technology abroad from the Russians.  The Russians have sold them the S-400 missile system but their interceptor technology is a state secret.

Large as the Iranians mean to make this arsenal, can it ever pose a threat to the territorial United States?  Certainly not.  To claim that Iran poses a threat to American soil is as outrageous as to say that Germany posed a threat to the US in the 1940s because of reports of the fabled “Amerika Bomber”.  Iran has no reason to attack to the US, but it does have a reason to construct a deterrent against its Siamese twin the Zionist State which, unlike Iran, is a nuclear power and does possess an advanced multi-layered missile shield.  Presently, this is the only way Iran can deter Israel from an attack on its nuclear facilities as well as be able to inflict significant damage on it should war erupt.  The IRGC have promised that should this happen Israel will face a determined response from the Aerospace Forces.

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  • Sakaramanga

    ”To claim that Iran poses a threat to American soil is as outrageous ” and yet people are made to beleive so. Same goes for Russia, North Korea, etc. There is still a vast amount of people who needs to see the truth that all these wars that US is fighting are crimes against humanity.

    • You can call me Al

      mmm well, Russia is definitely a threat and North Korea is allegedly a threat. Personally I think the biggest threat to the US is the US itself.

      • Sakaramanga

        by saying ”threat” (for Russia and allegedly DPRK) do you mean ”not giving their resources to US corporations’ perusal” (ie. a threat to US global economic hegomony) or what other threat? I cant see any military threat from neither of them.

        • You can call me Al

          Yes; “‘not giving their resources to US corporations’ perusal” but I disagree with you on the military threat – if they are attacked.

  • Joe

    No need to explain , those are old stale news .
    Basically Iran is not allowed to be able to defend itself .Period.

    Only Iran’s enemies are allowed even with nukes , nuke subs etc . Those seems to be okay …

    • You can call me Al

      AND Iran must heed and create a Rothschild’s central bank……(only 3 Countries left without one, Iran, North Korea and Cuba).

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      • d’Artagnan

        Indeed, Iran would be wise to test a nuke and let the chips fall where they will.

  • Drogba

    When there is no enemy to demonise and make war with,then the warmongering zionist scumbags just make one up.Same old story.

  • chris chuba

    It would be interesting to see an article on the capability of Iran’s ballistic missiles in terms of their accuracy and tactical goals. For example, would their longest range, multi-warhead missiles be capable of targeting an Israeli air base and seriously damaging it?

    To me it’s fairly obvious that they want to give Hezbollah their state of the art short range missiles because they are less expensive, probably more accurate, and cause the same amount of damage per missile strike. It’s also obvious that it is a defensive weapons system for two reasons.

    1. If Iran asked Hezbollah to launch a first strike on Israel, Hez would say, ‘uh, thanks but no thanks’ because they don’t want Lebanon to be torched just to make Iran happy.

    2. If Hezbollah wanted to launch a first strike on Israel, Iran knows that Israel would hold them accountable for it and risk a retaliatory, possibly nuclear attack from Israel.

    • Dennis Nilsen

      Chris, this is a good topic and thanks for suggesting it. As a short reply, CSIS has done a data sheet on Iran’s missile arsenal (https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/iran/), in which they show that the Shahab and Sejjil ballistic missiles and the Soumar cruise missile look to take Israel into their range. Whether they can be effective is doubtful due to Israel’s multi-layer missile defense system.

      I say the arsenal is objectively defensive not due to how Hezbollah may or may not act, but because Iran will never initiate a war against Israel, which would ensure its own destruction. However, I highly doubt Israel would use nukes. The worst Hezbollah will do is provoke an Israeli attack in order to try to achieve another battlefield victory over the IDF. That massive missile strike which all Israelis fear will only ever happen at the moment when the Axis of Resistance has acquired a significant strategic advantage over Israel (and the United States). Israel will in turn assure that this will never happen, so the Sword of Damocles will continue to hang but not drop.

      Hezbollah and Iran are following the strategy of Sun Tzu in seeking victory before the fight ever begins, and their means and methods are asymmetric warfare and political pressure.

  • jellyrajah

    A threat to any nation that is planning on expanding and taking over the entire Middle East. Now who would that be?

    • d’Artagnan

      The self-anointed “chosen ones” living off western taxpayer largess.

  • d’Artagnan

    Iran has the smallest defence budget in the region and poses no threat to anyone. It has every right to defend itself as the self-anointed “chosen ones” reap billions on western weapons and continue their land rustling in Palestine and Lebanon. If Russia was wiser it would be arming Iran, a stable powerful ally to the hilt with modern fighters and weapons systems.

  • Igor Dano

    Iran has proven with the missile attack against Targets in northern Syria, that Iran can hit Dimona with a heavy weapon.
    Should the illegal entity on the Palestinian territory bomb Iran’s nuclear facility, then the illegal entity will be bombed, Dimona will perish.
    The CEP of those missiles goes to pinpoint accuracy maybe few feet.

  • General Surena

    there are only 4 minutes for usa bases in region…
    17000 missiles are ready to burn them..
    hah.. wait and see… if its needed.

  • Alder

    I’m of the opinion that Iran’s ballistic missile deterrent is aimed at Pakistan and Saudi Arabia more than anyone else. Whatever they might say to the contrary, Saudi Arabia most likely can get nukes from Pakistan anytime it wants because, after all, they funded the program. Who do you think would be their target?

  • Real Anti-Racist Action

    Why does this article say Iran has the Russian S-400 missile system???
    I thought Iran only has the S-300 system.
    Moderator or Adman, please tell me if Iran has the S-400 system or not, I would really like to know.

  • Cheryl Brandon

    Iran like any state has a right to have all the weapons it needs to protect it’s citizens and, we know it was only country which used the Nuclear bombs and banned chemicals; USA. the Jews in Palestine FEAR Iran’s capabilities. Do not be any illusion that, the Jewish COMMUNITY in Iran does help the project the ZIONIST Expansion project as well. The substantial Jewish community in Iran are never even been treated like the JEWS are treating Palestinians in their own lands..

  • U Tube

    The fundamental doctrine of the Islamic regime of Iran is based on the producing enemies. Why? Because, they’ve learned since the1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 that with making enemy they can continue their regime to survive. How? By justified suppression of their own people in a war time situation. By whom? By the IRG (Islamic Revolutionary Guards) which they are controlling “ALL” major Economic and Political relations in Iran. Where is the IRG limit, now? A real war. Why? Because, No Iranian person would support any kind of war. Who is the Real enemy of Islamic regime of Iran? The Iranian People.