Long-range missile threat from Iran “not imminent”

Greg Thielmann who has served as a top intelligence official at the U.S. State Department until resigning shortly before the U.S-led invasion of Iraq writes on the Arms Control Association blog that a long-range missile threat from Iran is “not imminent.”

Notwithstanding the insinuations of strategic missile defense proponents, no long-range ballistic missiles have been observed or flight-tested in Iran. The medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) continues to be the premier weapon in the Iranian inventory. Iran is still flight-testing (for the seventh time in February 2011), but not yet deploying, the two-stage solid-fueled Sejjil 2 MRBM, which would be the most likely delivery vehicle if Iran were eventually to field a nuclear warhead. With its 2200 km range, this system would be able to target Israel and other Middle Eastern countries from Iran’s interior.

Iran’s long range ballistic missile threat has been exaggerated for many years, starting with the Rumsfeld Commission’s warning in 1998 that Iran, et al, would be able to flight-test an intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) in about five years. The U.S. intelligence community appeared to validate this concern in its 1999 National Intelligence Estimate, judging that Iran could test an ICBM within “a few years,” assigning an “even to likely” chance that it would test an ICBM by 2010.  Nearly two years past the marker set then by the intelligence community for the appearance of a 5500+ km. range Iranian ICBMs, nothing is in sight.

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.