The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) new agency Fars headlined a threat Sunday, Nov. 6: Four Iranian missiles can destroy tiny Israel, said the paper in Tehran's first reaction to the flood of conflicting reports about a possible Israel attack on Iran's nuclear sites. However, Iran's leaders are divided on how to assess the seriousness of an Israeli or American threat to their nuclear program and this is reflected in their various media.
The writer of the Fars story is identified by debkafile's Iranian sources as Saad-allah Zarey, its senior military commentator and a crony of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He stressed that the four missiles capable of causing the Zionist entity a million casualties would be conventional.
According to those sources point that the experiences of the Gulf war show that this number of ordinary missiles could not cause anything like the damage calculated by the writer. What Zarey may be referring to are the stubborn rumors going around Western intelligence circles since early 2005 that during the breakup of the Soviet Union, Tehran laid hands on black market nuclear cruise missiles from the Ukraine and 3 to 5 more from Belarus.
debkafile cites a BBC report of March 18, 2005:
Ukrainian arms dealers smuggled 18 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China in 1999-2001, Ukraine's prosecutor-general has said. The Soviet-era Kh-55 missiles – also known as X-55s – have a maximum range of 2,500km. They are launched by long-range bombers. The Kh-55, known in the West as the AS-15, is designed to carry a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield.
Our military sources add that with these missiles in hand, Iranian warplanes could bombard Israel 1,200 kilometers away without leaving their own air space.
The Ukrainian prosecutor-generalclaimed at the time that the missiles were not exported with nuclear warheads.
However our sources cite Western intelligence as suspecting that Tehran obtained those warheads from Belarus or from unconventional arms traffickers based in the Muslim Republics which were part of the USSR up until the 1990s. And indeed the Fars report did not specify what warheads the "conventional" missiles would carry.
Saad-allah Zarey described Israel as so small and vulnerable that even 100 Israeli bombs would not substantially damage Iran which is 80 times larger in area, whereas in a missile war Israel would not have enough time to rally its defenses. Therefore, he concludes, the chances of Israel or the US launching a military operation against Iran are slight.
Iran's most radical publication Kayhan finds in its Sunday editorial that Israel is too weak and America too exhausted to do much harm to Iran. Past experience has consistently shown that outside pressure makes Iran stronger, this paper says. Iran will come out on top of threats and sanctions compared with "Israel's defeat in its 33-day war against Hizballah," and America's "defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan."
However, another state-controlled paper, Tehran Emrooz, takes the opposite tack. Its editorial writer advises against underestimating the chances of an American military assault. According to this publication, Washington is preparing a "shock and awe" strike on Iran while at the same time stepping up sanctions.
Another editorial in Sharq agrees that "enemy plans" to attack Iran should not be taken lightly.
While all these comments reflect the debate underway among the various factions in the Iranian regime on the likelihood of an attack, no Iranian official has so far stepped forward with a definitive position.
Sunday, Ayatollah Khamenei sent a message of greeting to the Iranian pilgrims in Mecca, but made no mention of the nuclear issue except for a warning of the "perils and enemies" in wait for the Islamic Republic. And Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi likewise held his tongue on the issue in a speech he made Sunday in Tehran.