Report calls Iran top Mideast threat to U.S. interests ‘by far’

by WorldTribune Staff, August 8, 2016

Iran “by far” poses the largest potential threat to U.S. bases, interests, and allies in the Middle East, according to the 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength.

A Heritage Foundation report said Iran is the greatest threat to U.S. interests in the region “by virtue of its ballistic missile capabilities, nuclear ambitions, long-standing support for terrorism, and extensive support for Islamist revolutionary groups.”

Iran test-fired several ballistic missiles from silos across the country on Tuesday, the official website of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said, defying recent US sanctions on its missile program. /Reuters
Iran test-fired several ballistic missiles from silos across the country on March 8, the official website of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said, defying U.S. sanctions on its missile program. /Reuters

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s many overtures and concessionss, Iran remains firmly anti-Western and “seeks to tilt the regional balance of power in its favor by driving out the Western presence, undermining and overthrowing opposing governments, and establishing its hegemony over the oil-rich Persian Gulf region,” the index said.

“It also seeks to radicalize Shi’ite communities and advance their interests against Sunni rivals. Iran has a long record of sponsoring terrorist attacks against American allies and other interests in the region. With regard to conventional threats, Iran’s ground forces dwarf the relatively small armies of the other Gulf States, and its formidable ballistic missile forces pose significant threats to its neighbors.”

The report continued: “Iran has adopted a political warfare strategy that emphasizes irregular warfare, asymmetric tactics, and the extensive use of proxy forces. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has trained, armed, supported, and collaborated with a wide variety of radical Shia and Sunni militant groups, as well as Arab, Palestinian, Kurdish, and Afghan groups that do not share its radical Islamist ideology. The IRGC’s elite Quds (Jerusalem) Force has cultivated, trained, armed, and supported numerous proxies, particularly the Lebanon-based Hizbullah; Iraqi Shia militant groups; Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad; and groups that have fought against the governments of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen.

“Iran is the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism and has made extensive efforts to export its radical Shia brand of Islamist revolution. It has found success in establishing a network of powerful Shia revolutionary groups in Lebanon and Iraq; has cultivated links with Afghan Shia and Taliban militants; and has stirred Shia unrest in Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In 2013, Iranian arms shipments were intercepted by naval forces off the coasts of Bahrain and Yemen, and Israel intercepted a shipment of arms, including long-range rockets, bound for Palestinian militants in Gaza.”

The index also pointed to Teheran’s mounting missile threat: “Iran possesses the largest number of deployed missiles in the Middle East. The backbone of the Iranian ballistic missile force is formed by the Shahab series of road-mobile surface-to-surface missiles, which are based on Soviet-designed Scud missiles. The Shahab missiles are potentially capable of carrying nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads in addition to conventional high-explosive warheads. Their relative inaccuracy (compared to NATO ballistic missiles) limits their effectiveness unless they are employed against large and soft targets such as cities.

“Iran’s heavy investment in such weapons has fueled speculation that the Iranians intend eventually to replace the conventional warheads in their longer-range missiles with nuclear warheads. The Nuclear Threat Initiative has concluded that “[r]egardless of the veracity of these assertions, Tehran indisputably possesses a formidable weapons delivery capability, and its ongoing missile program poses serious challenges to regional stability.”

The index noted that Iran’s Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1, which is a modified version of the Shahab-3 with a smaller warhead but greater range (about 1,600 kilometers or 1,000 miles), “are considered more reliable and advanced than the North Korean No-dong missile from which they are derived.”

Iran can strike targets throughout the region and into Eastern Europe, then-Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, warned in 2014.

“In addition to its growing missile and rocket inventories, Iran is seeking to enhance lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with improvements in accuracy and warhead designs. Iran is developing the Khalij Fars, an anti-ship ballistic missile which could threaten maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz,” Flynn said.

The index said that Iran’s ballistic missiles “pose a major threat to U.S. bases and allies from Turkey, Israel, and Egypt in the west, to Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States to the south, to Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east. However, it is Israel, which has fought a shadow war with Iran and its terrorist proxies, that is most at risk from an Iranian attack. The development of nuclear warheads for Iran’s ballistic missiles would seriously degrade Israel’s ability to deter attacks, an ability that the existing (but not officially acknowledged) Israeli monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East currently provides.”

The index continued that, for the Teheran regime, “hostility to Israel, to which Iran sometimes refers as the ‘little Satan,’ is second only to hostility to the United States, which the leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, dubbed the ‘great Satan.’ But Iran poses a greater immediate threat to Israel than to the United States, since Israel is a smaller country with fewer military capabilities and located much closer to Iran. It already is within range of Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles. Moreover, all of Israel can be hit with the thousands of shorter-range rockets that Iran has provided to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad in Gaza.”

Meanwhile, Teheran has invested “tens of billions of dollars since the 1980s in a nuclear weapons program that is masked within its civilian nuclear power program,” the index noted. “It has built clandestine underground facilities to enrich uranium, which were subsequently discovered near Natanz and Fordow, and plans to build a heavy-water reactor near Arak, which essentially will be a plutonium bomb factory that will give it a second route to nuclear weapons.”

As of June 2015, “Iran had accumulated enough low-enriched uranium to build eight nuclear bombs if enriched to weapons-grade levels, and it could enrich enough uranium to arm one bomb in less than two months. Clearly, the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb would greatly amplify the threat posed by Iran. Even if Iran did not use a nuclear weapon or pass it on to one of its terrorist surrogates to use, the regime in Tehran could become emboldened to expand its support for terrorism, subversion, and intimidation, assuming that its nuclear arsenal would protect it from retaliation as has been the case with North Korea.”

On July 14, 2015, Obama announced that the United States and Iran, with China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, had reached a “comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran… .”

That same day, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives said: “His ‘deal’ will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a break-out threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating. Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region.  Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.”

On July 19, 2015, the Chairman of the National Security Council of the State of Israel briefed the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the Iran deal, noting: (1) “the preservation of Iran’s nuclear capabilities that have been made possible as a result of the agreement including the enrichment of uranium and the maintaining of underground nuclear installations such as that at Fordo,” (2) “the go-ahead that was given to Iran to continue the research and development of advanced centrifuges will significantly reduce the break-out time that Iran will need to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” (3) “if Iran honors the agreement it will have a 10-15 year break-out time for dozens of nuclear bombs, as the restrictions on its nuclear program are lifted,” (4) “were Iran to violate the agreement it would be able to break out toward individual bombs before then,” and (5) “with the hundreds of billions of dollars that will flow into its coffers Iran will step up the terrorism that it spreads in the region and around the world.”