Iran’s Looming Missile-cum-Nuclear Threat Sparks Fresh Tensions

Saturday night, August 7, Iranian defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani came out with a disturbing announcement. He said Iran will soon test an improved version of its new ballistic Shehab-3 missile whose 1300-km range covers every part of Israel.
“These improvements do not only concern its range, but other specifications as well,” said the Iranian minister, adding “The Israelis are trying hard to improve the capacity of their missiles, and we are also trying to improve the Shehab-3 in a short time.” He offered no details on either upgrade, saying only: “We will improve the missile and when we test it, in the very short future, we will let you know.” If attacked, Iran would not leave its people without defense, he stressed.
Shamkhani also denied any Iranian cooperation with North Korea in missile technology – as suggested in Washington – stressing that the Islamic Republic does not need it.
In between emphasizing defense, Shamkhani issued a dire warning to Israel not to dare attack its nuclear sites.
debkafile notes that the Shehab-3 missile’s first unveiling was accompanied by the pledge: “We will wipe Israel off the map,” a theme that recurs every Friday sermon in Iran’s mosques and its official pronouncements. In view of the Tehran hardline regime’s admitted strategic commitment to Israel’s destruction, Iran’s nuclear program combined with the development of its Shehab-3 is seen by policymakers in Jerusalem as the greatest threat to Israel’s existence since 1948.
Iran’s processing facilities for enriching the uranium necessary to building nuclear weapons are carefully dispersed in several subterranean sites. They are built in bunkers, often tens of meters deep, under densely populated urban centers, in the hope of deterring the Americans and the Israelis from attacking them.
Nonetheless, the Iranians do not feel safe. The defense minister believes Israel is developing a new type of depth bomb able to penetrate buried sites or wipe out electronics with electro-magnetic energy bursts. Tehran’s defense specialists are also keeping a watchful eye on the war tactics employed by the US military before, during and since the invasion of Iraq and against the Iraqi guerrilla war. They regard the Iraq precedent as a potential dress rehearsal for a possible US military operation against Iran.
Iranian military chiefs avidly read American publications on new weaponry – for instance, US Air Force research on a 9.5 tonne Massive Ordnance Air-burst Bomb capable of hitting mountain bunkers, whose warhead is as powerful as a small nuclear bomb. This weapon is designed to replace the biggest conventional US bomb, the 7.5 tonne Daisy Cutter, used at least twice in Afghanistan against mountain caves.
The Iranians are also worried by the airborne GBI-28 bunker busters the Americans used in the capture of Baghdad and in another airborne or cruise missile-carried BLU-114B bomb that is capable of knocking out the electricity grids of whole cities. There are reports of an “E-bomb” under development, whose microwave beams can massively damage electronic circuitry over a large area.
International media, furthermore, have reported at least one Israeli Dolphin submarine carrying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads to be lurking in waters just outside the Persian Gulf between the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Israel’s Ofek 5 spy satellite is also able to track Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran is concerned by these new weapons and devices because they are armed with deep underground penetration capabilities, or geared to crippling electric and electronic systems in urban areas. Iran’s subterranean nuclear plants are therefore potentially vulnerable – even in their subterranean lairs under cities. Iran’s regime and military leaders live in fear of waking up one morning to find that an Israeli or an American strike has wiped out their nuclear option just when it is closest to their grasp.
Although Tehran’s highly effective procrastination maneuvers have paid off so far in keeping diplomatic, military and economic hurdles at bay, defense minister Shamkhani finds it necessary to issue a warning threat to Israel. In the last ten days, these threats have intensified as a result of certain key developments inside Iran.
One, According to debkafile‘s Iranian sources, Iran’s radical spiritual ruler Ali Khamenei convened a high-powered secret conference Sunday, August 1, to underline a policy of nuclear brinkmanship in the face of the US-led international outcry against its nuclear weapons program. The decision to tough it out was endorsed by the assembled leadership group of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, secretary of the national security council and liaison on nuclear matters with international institutions Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s former delegation to the IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi, head of foreign affairs commission of NSC Seyyed Hossein Moussavian and also defense minister Shakhmani.
A tough line against America automatically begets a doubly aggressive attitude towards Israel.
Two, Some of the new Shehab-3 missiles have been deployed secretly in central Iran – both as a shield for the nuclear plants against air, ground or naval attack and as a retaliatory option against attackers.
Knocking out this deployment would leave the industry susceptible to attack and nullify Iran’s deterrent.
The comment by Israel’s air defense commander that Israel’s Arrow II anti-missile missile system successfully tested last week against a Scud would not be effective against an Iranian multiple warhead Shehab 3 was taken with a pinch of salt by the ayatollahs who live in suspicion of trickery. But it does leave teasing questions about what Israel can do to prevent the deployment of the soon-to-be tested improved Shehab-3 batteries pointing in the direction of the Jewish state.
Sunday, August 8, the New York Times reported: American intelligence officials and outside nuclear experts have concluded that the Bush administration’s diplomatic efforts with European and Asian allies have barely slowed weapons programs in Iran and North Korea over the past year and both have made significant progress. Senior administration and intelligence officials, the paper reports, say they are seeking ways to step up unspecified covert actions.
The NYT report is sourced to Kennebunkport, the Bush family’s summer residence.
The Shakhmanei threat and this report come together with the distribution in southern Israel Sunday, August 8, of Lugol radiation antidote capsules to people living in the triangle formed by Israel’s nuclear center at Dimona, Arad and Eilat on the Red Sea. Home Command soldiers are handing these iodine dose packages – not to be opened until ordered – round homes in Dimona, Yeruham, Arara, Kseifa and Bedouin Negev settlements. Instructions in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian and Amharic are attached. Distribution centers will also stock the antidote and extra doses made available for growing families.
Lugol is being handed out in case of an accidental leak from the Dimona reactor, say Israeli officials. They are talking less about the danger of nuclear fallout from a possible strike by an Iranian Shehab-3 missile.
In the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein did shoot a Scud missile against Dimona. It carried a warhead packed with cement for smashing through the reactor’s dome but missed its target and fell in the sand without causing damage.

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