So much has been written defending Iran from accusations of nuclear proliferation, claiming its nuclear program is either non-existent or for peaceful purposes only, especially in the Israel-unfriendly Guardian, so it comes as rather a surprise to find a Guardian article with the straightforward headline: Iran ‘will not make longer-range missiles as Israel is already in reach’.
Certainly there are no two ways that the Iranians’ intentions can be read.
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has claimed his country can produce even longer range missiles than those already in its arsenal, but will not because Israel and US bases in the Gulf are already within its reach.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the guards’ aerospace force, made the remarks as Iran conducts 10 days of war games, its latest show of military force amid a standoff with the west over the country’s nuclear programme.
Hajizadeh said the guards’ arsenal already included missiles with a range of about 1,250 miles (2,000km) – putting Israel, US bases in the Gulf and parts of south-eastern and eastern Europe within Iran’s reach.
The missiles, he said, were designed for Israeli and US targets. Iran’s known missiles of such range are the Shahab-3 and the Sajjil. Iran considers Israel and the US its main enemies.
Hajizadeh said some US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan were as close as 75 miles from Iran’s borders and could easily be hit by Iran in case of an attack.
One would think that there would be more of a worldwide outcry at this overt statement of aggression, not only towards Israel which is usually cast in the role of international scapegoat or at least dispensable, but also towards European and US assets. However so far all we have heard are figurative finger-wagging and limp statements of concern by Britain and NATO, plus some mild sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Mr Hague told the Commons that Iran “has been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload”.
Those tests were in clear contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions forbidding Iran from developing a military nuclear programme, he said. British officials said that the nuclear tests took place separately from the current, publicly declared tests.
Britain believes that since last October, Iranian forces have carried out three secret tests of missiles that could be used to carry nuclear material.
Britain has reported those tests to the United Nations, but has not previously made them public.
The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) last month raised “concern” about possible secret Iranian nuclear weapons development.
Even those minimal sanctions that are in force are being applied half-heartedly. Israel has condemned the Germans for hosting an Iranian Majlis (Parliament) delegation to the Bundestag. What kind of lesson does that teach Iran?
Even if the missiles being tested by Iran are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads – and that is not clear at the moment according to the British – the fact remains that long-range ballistic missiles are dangerous in themselves too. We only have to remember the Scuds launched at Israel in Gulf War I to understand.
The only country besides Israel to vociferously protest the Iranian nuclear programme is Saudi Arabia who threaten to escalate the arms race by opening their own nuclear weapons program.
A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device “would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences”.
He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear.
“We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don’t. It’s as simple as that,” the official said. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.”
According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a “paper tiger with steel claws” that was “meddling and destabilising” across the region.
“Iran … is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practise what it preaches,” Turki said.
Let the (arms) race begin!