- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Despite Tehran’s history of exaggerating its military prowess, it would be a serious mistake to dismiss the military and political significance of Iran’s Feb. 3 satellite launch. The test occurred just one day before the start of a meeting of diplomats representing the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to discuss multilateral efforts to dissuade Iran from continuing its nuclear-weapons programs.

By timing the launch as it did, Iran illustrated once again its contempt for the United Nations Security Council, which has passed multiple resolutions condemning the country’s illicit nuclear-weapons program. And, perhaps most important of all, the test was one step in a progression toward developing a rogue-state intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.

Iran’s Shahab series of missiles can already reach all of the Middle East and parts of southeastern Europe. Heritage Foundation scholar Peter Brookes points out that an Iranian two-stage ballistic missile could reach all of Europe in addition to the East Coast of the United States. A three-stage missile would put the entire United States within range. According to an international Atomic Energy Agency report issued last summer, Tehran is redesigning the payload chamber of the “Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle to accommodate a nuclear warhead.”

Some experts, among them David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, suggest that the danger isn’t so great - pointing to the fact that Iran is entering the space age using “Sputnik-era technology” - named for the Soviet satellite launched in October 1957. When carefully examined, however, this argument is less than reassuring. One thing we know about Iran’s space efforts: They are following a pattern - that of North Korea in the late 1990s. Pyongyang (which frequently collaborates with Tehran on military matters) used a “civilian” space program to covertly manufacture and test a missile with ICBM potential. As is the case with North Korea, Iran’s defense ministry plays a key role in the space program. Also involved are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which manages Tehran’s medium-range ballistic-missile program.

All of this is particularly disturbing in view of Iran’s record of cheating and deception in the nuclear realm. For close to 20 years, it successfully concealed evidence of its nuclear-weapons programs from IAEA inspectors. The existence of the clandestine programs only came to light because of the efforts of an Iranian opposition group.

The Iranian satellite launch also raises troubling questions about President Obama’s promise to prevent modernization of the U.S. nuclear force and eventually abolish it. Mr. Obama has also expressed skepticism about the usefulness of building U.S. missile defense systems if they fail to reach a level approximating perfection, as we note in the editorial above this. The combination of failing to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and failing to go forward with missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic, is potentially a formula for disaster - leaving the world vulnerable to a possible nuclear breakout by the mullahs.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide