If you live in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, that’s a question that you should answer, and in the affirmative. Last Wednesday, 20 May 2009, Iran launchedthe Sejil 2, its “longest-range solid-propellant missile yet.” The rangeof this missile is approximately 1,200 to 1,500 miles. This places Israel, the Middle East (including American bases), and Eastern Europe, well within range of Iranian missiles. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has claimedthat the missile “landed exactly on the target.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed that the launch was a success, but is unsure as to whether the missile actually hit its target. According to experts, while this is not new technology, it does, however, prove that the technology that the Iranians have claimed to have had for around a year does, in fact, work. In addition to the threat of the range of the missiles is that of the potential warning. One of the problems with solid fuels is that they can be pre-fueled and hidden, which makes detection prior to launch far more difficult. Of course, this is good news if you’re an Iranian who wants to “send to hell,” as Ahmadinejad so eloquently put it, your enemies.

Iran, however, like any good nation, is not sitting on its laurels! They are quite busy, in fact. Iran has been buying uranium from Bolivia and Venezuela, for its nuclear program. At the same time, on Monday, 25 May 2009, Iran sent 6 warships into international waters. These ships even went into the Gulf of Aden, which is an important passageway for Middle Eastern oil.

This is all occurring while it seems that the Obama administration may be willing to accept a nuclear Iran, according to intelligence experts and academics who have analyzed statements released by the administration. At the same time, the Israeli government is trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to cause the American government to understand that there is no connection between the dismemberment of illegal outposts in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, and Iran. As Minister of Defense Ehud Barak put it, “It’s not as if the moment the last outpost is dismantled, for reasons of the rule of law and the country’s authority over its citizens, the Iranians will abandon their nuclear ambitions. This is why these things need not be [presented as] directly interdependent.” So, in the meantime, if you haven’t already, locate your bomb shelter.

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  • Miiiiklaaat. In all seriousness, I don’t think the situation with Iran is as serious as some press makes it out to be. Iran would be crazy to attack Israel, which, despite some of the news coming out of there, is not true. Iran is completely logical and acts in its own interests. It is not in its interest to attack Israel.

    Best thing that proves this? The podcast at EconTalk:

    A summary:

    Bruce Bueno de Mesquita of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and New York University talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about threats to U.S. security, particularly Iran. Bueno de Mesquita argues that Iran is of little danger to the United States and that Ahmadinejad is an unimportant player in Iran’s political system, more of a stalking horse for provocative ideas rather than a wielder of power.

    Bueno de Mesquita then looks at what Iran has to gain and to lose by appearing to build a nuclear weapons program and actually using a nuclear weapon. He then goes on to examine the nature of other threats to the United States.

  • vicki, you are correct in that Iran is not a threat, RIGHT NOW. It is, als, true that once they aquire nucelar capabilities they may not be a threat. However, once they do, they will always be a potential threat as the issue is capabilities. In a dynamic world oreder today’s friends may, potentially, be tomorrow’s enemies. How much the more so should one be wary of those which are not one’s friends and who call for one’s destruction. Moreover, true Ahmadinejad is less important than the Supreme Spiritual Leader, or head Ayatollah. However, just because today’s Ayatollah swears not to use nuclear weapons does not mean that tomorrow’s will agree. Once capabilities exist situations become inherently more dangerous.

  • Vicki, there’s also another aspect to all of this. Whether or not Iran actually decides to carry out a nuclear attack against Israel might not be the biggest question.

    If Iran is in possession of nuclear weapons, it could put the whole region on high alert whenever it wants – costing Israel’s economy millions and billions, destroying Israel, in effect. Tourism would collapse, and the cost of calling up reserves all the time would be very high (reserve soldiers are much more expensive than regular ones) for the state, as well for the economy, of which huge sectors will have to be shut down, as in time of war.

    By the way, unfortunately I did not come up with this on my own, and since האומר דבר בשם אומרו מביא גאולה לעולם (he who says something in the name of he who said it bring redemption to the world) I have to say I heard Michael Oren explain this additional aspect to the Iranian threat.

  • Once Iran acquires nukes, the entire Middle East is in deep doo doo. They don’t need to use, just to have it and key American allies like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates will have some difficult decisions to make about who their allies are. Add to this that Iraq is not a Shiite stronghold and may ally itself with Iran once the Americans leave, and you have a very destabilizing force with nukes that can throw its weight around. They will have much more respect and much more leverage with everyone, especially and including the USA.

  • Thanks all for the clarifications. I didn’t think about the economic ramifications that LB elaborated on, and that is something to consider. A question: how would calling up reserves prevent against a nuclear attack? it seems the situation would be much bigger than this.

    However, it’s always interesting to look at it from the other perspective; however, as with the Soviet Union, there may be a balancing act. If Iran potentially acquires nukes and constantly threatens to use them, Israel could threaten to use its nukes in retaliation. Additionally, as long as America’s interests lie in having Israel as a whole state, America will also nuke Iran in retaliation, creating a balance.

    Granted, it’s not an easy balance to have, but it’s the one that kept the USSR and the US from ever nuking each other back in the day, as my political science professor explained to me.

  • Calling up reserves is a general preparation for war, which must be undertaken if there is a risk of Israel being attacked.

    I’m not sure it would prevent a nuclear attack, but might serve as some sort of deterrent. In any case, in this scenario (which we will hopefully not need to witness) it’s not like Israel can simply sit back and hope nothing will happen. There are times in which action must be taken even if it is not certain how effective it will be…