Beyond the bomb: the Near-Term Iran Missile Threat


Source: Extracts from The Gulf Military Balance, the missile and the nuclear dimension

Iran’s existing missile forces give it the capability to attack targets in the Gulf and near its border with conventionally armed long-range missiles and rockets, and Iran can attack targets in Israel, throughout the region, and beyond with its longest-range ballistic missilesIn the near-term, Iran would either be limited to the tactical use of shorter range systems as artillery against area targets, to volleys of shorter ranged missiles and rockets against nearby area targets (tactics it has not yet serious practiced), or to longer-range missile strikes designed more for psychological or “terror” purposes than military combat. The seriousness of even these threats would depend in part on Iran’s ability to launch rockets and missiles in salvos, and in “stacked threats” of different types that complicated the use of missile defenses and suppressive strikes…Iran could use conventionally or chemically armed missiles and long-range rockets as terror weapons, striking against large area targets like cities. It might escalate to the use of such systems because of a conventional war in the Gulf, in reaction to any military threat to its ruling regime, as a response to covert action against the state, or as a method of resolving domestic fissures.


Moreover, Iran’s missile and rocket forces may well become far more effective even if Iran does not get nuclear weapons. Today’s missile designs would be more effective if they could be equipped with conventional or chemical cluster munitions. Although they would still be limited by range-payload limits, “fusing” issues, and a lack of accuracy, and even substantial volley against area targets would cause more terror than ones capable of hitting and destroying key point target. If Iran is to make a major advance in lethality using missiles and rockets without nuclear weapons, it would have to make advances in two other areas: precision guidance and terminal homing and biological weapons. Iran has already said it is seeking to provide its missiles and rockets with precision guidance and terminal homing warheads and with countermeasures to ballistic missile defenses. It has also claimed to have shown it has a near precision strike capability, although satellite photos of the target area indicate it simulated missile hits by using explosive devices at the scene. Deploying chemical or biological warheads would give Iranian missile more lethality…Biological weapons can theoretically be as – or more – lethal that fission weapons and Iran has all of the needed technology.





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