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There Is No Iranian Missile Threat to Europe

July 23, 2015 (EIRNS)—Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, told Rossiya 24 TV in an interview yesterday, that the continued insistence of the US that the NATO BMD system is still necessary, despite the Iran nuclear deal, confirms Moscow’s worst fears that it’s really aimed at Russia.

"Now there is a reasonable question: well, if Iran does not pose a threat any more, even if it is not a partner yet but not a foe either, then why is all this being built, and against whom?"

Chizhov asked rhetorically. "US reaction to this is quite eloquent and confirms our worst fears."

US Deputy Secretary of State for Europe John Heffern, told the Polish press Tuesday that the missile deployments in Poland will proceed as planned. "The deal with Tehran doesn’t include missiles, therefore the threat remains," he said.

Strangely enough, confirmation that Iran is not a missile threat to Europe comes from the US side, in an article in the July-August issue of the U.S. Air Forces’s own "Air and Space Power Journal" by Rand Corporation analyst Jacob L. Heim. Heim’s article is actually written in a very different context, in that his thesis is that the Defense Department needs to devote considerably more resources to anti-missile defense in the Western Pacific than in the Persian Gulf, as the Chinese ballistic missile capability is far denser and far more accurate than anything possessed by Iran. In fact, he argues, the Iranian threat is relatively easily to defend against, whereas the Chinese threat is not.

The bulk of the Iranian missile force is made up of liquid-fuelled Shahab missiles, along with a smaller number of solid-fuelled Fateh 110’s. The Shahab 3 has a maximum range of 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers, but neither type has near the accuracy of its Chinese equivalent, especially at ranges beyond 500 km. Furthermore, Iran has hundreds of these missiles but only a few dozen launchers, limiting the number they can launch at any one time.

"Most Iranian systems are so inaccurate that they likely could not hit military targets," Heims writes. According to his analysis, the most they could do might be to destroy aircraft sitting on the parking ramps at the US airbases at Al Dhafra in the UAE or Al Udeid in Qatar, if loaded with submunitions. But that threat is easily avoided by moving to bases beyond 500 km from Iran, of which there are plenty in the region (unlike the Pacific). "Outside 500 km, Iran’s current TBM [tactical ballistic missile] capabilities do not pose a serious military threat, because the Shahab 3 lacks the accuracy and inventory to compose even a single salvo against one runway aim point or parking area," Heim writes. "Inside 500 km, Iran’s existing capabilities can muster only a small number of salvos." The threat to US bases in the region is, therefore, "manageable."

Iran’s missiles, therefore, are poor war fighting instruments but might still be useful for psychological deterrence; that is, they can still be used against cities, like Dubai, but even this can be mitigated, if not eliminated, by missile defenses such as the Patriot system.

The clear implication of Heim’s analysis is that if the Iranian missile arsenal is such a minimal threat to US airbases in the Persian Gulf, then it clearly poses no threat whatsoever to Europe, nor will it in the forseeable future. The Russians are right. There is no need for NATO’s missile defense system if it is indeed, as the Obama Administration insists, only aimed at Iran.