Ballistic missiles, Iran’s deeply rooted arms in Middle East

Firas Elias
Iranian Affairs Expert
Translated by Shaimaa Shedeed
Iran started to develop its missiles system before the Iranian revolution when the Shah made agreement with Israel to develop its short range missiles after Washington had refused granting Iran lans missiles. The agreement included Iran as financer while Israel was technology provider. That time, Iran was the biggest military air force in the gulf area as it owned 400 fighting aircrafts. However, in the post revolution period, Iran began to focus on developing the ballistic missiles. This was clearly prevailed since the Iraqi-Iranian war in the 1980s.
Actually, Iran owns one of the biggest arsenals or already the biggest arsenal of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran also could develop its capabilities to launch satellites to be in this field the first of two countries, second of which is Israel. Although Israel owns more developed capabilities in the ballistic missiles field, Israel owns lesser number of ballistic missiles as most of these missiles are exported mainly from the north Korea. Formerly, Iran announced that the range of its surface to surface rockets reached to 2000 km while the range needed to reach Israel is 1200. Thus, Iran became the only state that has rockets with this range without owning nuclear armament.
In addition, Iranian ballistic missiles system is fairly developed. Thus, the modest Iranian air force and the symbolic navy capabilities made Iran depends on the ballistic missiles to achieve long range strikes. So far, ranges of Iranian ballistic missiles are from 45 to 2000km.
According to the official website Sepah News affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, major general Haji Zada, leader of air force affiliated with Revolutionary Guards said in a statement in Imam Hussein University that “Iran had increased the accuracy and production of missiles in response to recommendations of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
Although the UN resolution number 2231 included prohibition of Ballistic experiments for Iran and also prohibition of developing the long range rockets or missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, Iranian Chief of Staff announced in November 2016 about the establishment of missiles factory related to the Revolutionary Guards in Syria and tested at least for four times missiles carrying nuclear warheads. Actually, the Iranian threats aren’t limited to the ballistic missiles experiments but extended to using it practically in killing the Syrian civilians as it provided Assad regime in Syria and Houthi in Yemen with these missiles. Houthi militias have been launching Iranian made ballistic missiles on Saudi Arabia and Iran provided Hezbollah militias in Iraq with Iranian made missiles to strike Saudi Arabia in 2013.
In order to face the danger of Iranian ballistic missiles, some researchers in the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) stressed on the necessity of deploying 44 Patriots in the states of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They also suggested the usage of Thaad system for maximum efficiency.
In the Same context, professor Topy Dodge, Consultant Senior fellow in the Middle East in the IISS said in a symposium held on the occasion of releasing his report around missiles defence in the GCC against the threats and dangers of Iranian ballistic missiles that “the conflicts in the region whether in Syria or Yemen provide a good laboratory for Iran to test its missiles in real wars”. He also said that Houthi and Hezbollah provide good laboratories for Iranian experiments. However, Dodge said that when Iran strikes the GCC countries with missiles,” it won’t be” the only one to use missiles in the Middle East, in reference to the US interference and other allies. In addition, the GCC states themselves such as KSA own developed missiles. He also tackled a realistic example saying that KSA could repel missiles launched from Yemen, adding that “as long as there is an integration, there is a success”. He noted that the best way to deter Iran and its missiles is increasing the sanctions, calling on the Gulf States to establish a strong defence system to repel the Iranian missiles. “In the post-nuclear deal world, buying this kind of missiles will increase” said Dodge, underlining the necessity of a military agreement among the Gulf States such as the Peninsula Shield Forces based in KSA on which they can build and increase the military cooperation.
The Russian Middle East Institute published a study tackling the Iranian program of ballistic missiles that the US and Israel consider direct threat to the international security and stability and an attempt from Iran to control the Middle East area. The study abstract included that Iranian authorities consider the ballistic missiles a source of national power and one of the most important constituents of the Iranian armed forces that will enable it to defend its security against any expected attacks from the enemies who are lying in wait. In return, the US and its main allies in the region KSA and Israel see that these missiles owned by Iran are enough justification to deter and limit the Iranian power.
According to the aforementioned, Iran continuously works on improving its missiles arsenal and its performance in addition to expanding its range, however, still there is a shortage in the Iranian capability of manufacturing. It can’t accurately identify the far targets and this was uncovered during Iranian operations of launching ballistic missiles from the Iranian territories to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor In 2017. Thus, Iran works on improving its control system to be able to accurately reach its targets.
Actually, Iran pays big concern to the matter of improving its ballistic missiles. In this regard, Leader of Iranian air force Ali Haji Zada announced the finishing of building a third establishment to manufacture ballistic missiles under ground in the Iranian city of Dezful. This city had witnessed fierce battles during the Iraqi-Iranian war. He also affirmed that Iran keeps developing its missiles capabilities until reaching the anticipated level of deterrence.
Iran performed number of experiments during several periods including the experiment performed in July 27th , 2017 when Iran announced the success of launching ballistic missile, Simrough type, capable of carrying explosive power of 250kg and 500km height. It is noteworthy that this experiment was days after the sanctions imposed by Washington against Iran due to breaching the nuclear deal clauses and also synchronized with the opening of centre of Imam Al-Khomeini for space as Iran makes use of this centre in the industries related to improving the missiles.
Several operations of launching ballistic missiles by Iran witnessed a state of international polarization especially from the sides of the US, France, Germany and Britain as they asked the UN to take harder steps towards the provoking Iranian operations. They said that the Iranian experiment performed on July 27th , 2017 was against the resolutions issued from the Security Council, urging the UN secretary general to perform his role in order to keep the international peace and security.
Notably, developing the ballistic missiles represents a long term strategic goal for Iran and a source of power on which the battle doctrine of Iran depends. This is because the Iranian decision makers sees these missiles can be the alternative to the nuclear program. In fact, the world is currently witnessing an Iranian-regional-international conflict titled “The Iranian ballistic missiles file”. This file occupies the international and regional mind the same way the Iranian nuclear program file occupied it. Consequently, no doubt this will negatively affect the Iranian regional and international role due to the continuing sanctions imposed on it.
After some sanctions were partially lifted when Iran signed the nuclear deal, several condemning resolutions were issued from the international Security Council because of its continuing ballistic missiles experiments. These experiments began with the first days of Donald Trump in office and now the US escalation towards Iran is increasing whether on the level of moves in the Middle East or the armament capabilities of the states in the region such as Saudi Arabia that currently owns modernist and most developed air defence system in the region. The escalation also includes the sanctions that were turned from the stage of economic sanctions to the stage of military mobilization in Hormuz, which got Iran into a new dilemma of international and regional pressures and will impose restrictions on its international and regional moves because of being described as a state threatening the international peace and security which in itself will affect its regional strategy variants.

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