May 28, 2013 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies; issued May 27, 2013)
No single aspect of US and Iranian military competition is potentially more dangerous than the missile and nuclear dimensions, and the possibility Iran will deploy long-range, nuclear-armed missiles.
At one level, Iran’s current missile and rocket forces help compensate for its lack of effective air power and allow it to pose a threat to its neighbors and US forces that could affect their willingness to strike on Iran if Iran uses its capabilities for asymmetric warfare in the Gulf or against any of its neighbors. At another level, Iran’s steady increase in the number, range, and capability of its rocket and missile forces has increased the level of tension in the Gulf, and in other regional states like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. Iran has also shown that it will transfer long- range rockets to “friendly” or “proxy” forces like the Hezbollah and Hamas.
At a far more threatening level, Iran has acquired virtually every element of a nuclear breakout capability except the fissile material needed to make a weapon. This threat has already led to a growing “war of sanctions,” and Israeli and US threats of preventive strikes. At the same time, the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear programs cannot be separated from the threat posed by Iran’s growing capabilities for asymmetric warfare in the Gulf and along all of its borders.
While negotiations continue and still have some promise, Iran has also acquired most of the technology to design a fission warhead or bomb small enough to be carried by a fighter-bomber or long-range missile. This does not mean it has a rapid break out capability to actually deploy a nuclear weapon. It will need to test a basic device, then test weapons designs, and finally actually deploy a weapon.
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