Thursday, September 19, 2019

How Iran would respond if attacked ..

NI:

Like the rest of the Iranian Armed Forces, the Iranian Air Force was crippled by postrevolution purges. Although numerically and technologically superior to the Iraqi Air Force, Iran was unable to achieve air superiority and unable to accurately strike targets deep within Iraq.

In response, Iran purchased a number of Soviet R-17 (“Scud B”) short-range ballistic missiles from the Libyan government. These strikes, as well as retaliatory strikes by Iraqi ballistic missiles, constituted the so-called “War of the Cities.” The lack of accuracy of the missiles made cities the easiest targets, and both Iranian and Iraqi civilians bore the brunt of the crude missile campaign.

The wartime need for ballistic missiles, as well as Iran’s historical enmity with Israel, led Iran to develop its own missile industry. The first missiles were copies of existing Scud missiles. The Shahab (“Shooting Star”)-1 missile is based on the Scud-B; the Nuclear Threat Initiative estimates Iran maintains an inventory of two to three hundred missiles. The liquid-fueled Shahab-1 can loft a two-thousand-pound high-explosive or chemical warhead up to 186 miles, but like the original Scud-B, its accuracy is lacking. Just half of the warheads from a Shahab-1 would land within a half mile of the target—the rest landing even farther away. Another version, Shahab-2, has a range of 310 miles. Both versions are likely being phased out in favor of a new generation of solid-fuel rockets.

A third missile, Shahab-3, is actually a variant of North Korea’s Nodong-1 missile. Also developed from the Scud, the Nodong-1 has its origins in Pyongyang’s desire to hit U.S. bases in Japan from the Korean Peninsula. There are differing claims to the distance the Shahab-3 can deliver payloads. The Nuclear Threat Initiative states that it has a maximum range of 621 miles, which falls short of the Nodong-1’s range. The Center for Strategic and International Studies states that the Nodong-1 has a range of 932 miles, but credits the Shahab-3 a range of 1,242 miles, a significant improvement.

While the Nodong-1/Shahab-3 offers greater range than previous missiles, it is miserably inaccurate, with half of warheads expected to fall within 1.5 miles of the target and the other half even farther away. The first Iranian test of the Shahab-3 was in 1998, and the missile was declared operational in 2003. Arms-control experts theorize North Korea sold Iran a complete Nodong assembly line, while others believe Iran received approximately 150 missiles in return for financing development of the missile.

The Shahab-3 has spawned at least one variant, the Ghadr-1, which has a slightly shorter range but is reportedly much more accurate, to within six hundred feet. A new warhead developed for both missiles, known as Emad, appears to bring even greater stability, maneuverability and accuracy to Iran’s medium-range ballistic missiles.

Iranian missile development took a giant leap with the fielding of the Sejil medium-range missile. Unlike previous liquid-fueled missiles, the solid-fueled Sejil does not have to be fueled before launch and can be stored ready to fire. A Sejil missile in the field also does not need a telltale convoy of refueling vehicles that can be spotted by enemy forces. Iran’s solid-fuel expertise is thought to have come from China in a late 1980s technology transfer.

First tested in 2008, the Sejil carries a one- to two-thousand-pound warhead and has a range identical to the older Shahab-3. Sejil may in fact be a replacement for the older missile. While the Sejil’s accuracy is unknown, it could hardly be worse than its liquid-fueled predecessor. There are unconfirmed reports of longer-range variants. A missile named Sejil-2 was reportedly tested in 2009, and a three-stage Sejil-3 with a 2,400-mile range is reportedly in development.

According to a 2005 report in Germany’s Bild Zeitung newspaper, Iran imported eighteen Musudan intermediate-range missiles in kit form from North Korea. The existence of these missiles was disputed for years, but an April 2017 launch was said by U.S. government officials to be a Khorramshahr, allegedly the local name for the Musudan. The Iranian missile apparently flew for six hundred miles before it exploded, a level of success North Korea itself did not experience until its sixth Musudan test. This is an unusual discrepancy, and could be indicative that the test was of another missile type entirely. Unlike its other missiles, Iran has never publicly displayed a Musudan-type missile.

In the meantime, Iran has gone back and updated its fleet of short-range, or battlefield short-range, ballistic missiles. Tehran’s latest missile, the Zulfiqar, is also based on Chinese solid-fuel technology. The Zulfiqar can carry a thousand-pound high explosive or submunition warhead that Iran claims is accurate to within fifty to seventy meters. The missile has a range of 434 to 466 miles. While it has a smaller warhead than the Shahab-1 and -2, the Zulfiqar is much more accurate and has a greater range, making it a viable replacement for the older, liquid-fueled missiles.

Iran does not currently have an intercontinental ballistic missile. Could Tehran’s missiles someday reach Washington, DC? North Korea has demonstrated that even a determined country of limited means can build a credible missile program. The Nuclear Threat Initiative lists Shahab-5 and -6 missiles as possible ICBMs that have been mentioned in Iranian literature, but these names seem to be assigned to notional design goals and not operational missiles. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran has agreed to halt its nuclear-weapons development. Resumption of ICBM research and development would be a clue that Iran’s nuclear ambitions have reignited, something that would put the country on a collision course with the United States.

Iran’s ballistic-missile program began from a wartime requirement for a strategic terror weapon, and progressed to the development of nuclear delivery vehicle. Iran, like North Korea, is proof of the dangers of ballistic-missile proliferation, and how trade in even short-range missiles like the Scud can lead to the development of far more dangerous weapons down the road.


Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This first appeared back in 2017 and is being reposted due to reader interest

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

US Identifies Iran cruise missile launch sites

The United States has identified the exact locations in Iran from which a combination of more than 20 drones and cruise missiles were launched against Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, a senior U.S. official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Tuesday. The official said the locations are in southern Iran, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf.

Saudi Arabia's air defenses have been aimed south for months, to protect against missile attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, so they were useless against the missiles and drones coming in from the north, the official told Martin.

One of the missiles flew through Kuwait's airspace and the U.S. is working with a number of other countries to analyze data on the attack, which could help make the case against Iran.

A U.S. team has been on the ground at the oil facilities and identified the specific types of drones and cruise missiles fired, Martin reported. The wreckage was moved to a facility outside the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where it will be used to make what one U.S. official called, "a very compelling forensic case" that Iran launched "a complex and coordinated attack" on Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the wreckage, the forensic case will include radar tracks reconstructed after the fact that show the cruise missiles and drones coming out of Iran.

U.S. officials have already blamed Iran for the attack, but President Trump has appeared this week to lower expectations of a U.S. military response. On Monday night, one day after tweeting that the U.S. was "locked and loaded" in response to the attack on Saudi Arabia, the president told supporters in New Mexico not to panic about oil supplies.

Today, we got a lot of oil," Mr. Trump said at his rally. "We got a lot of gas."

"A few years ago, if we had a problem like you saw two days ago in the Middle East, we would've been in a panic," the president added. "Although not if I were your president — we never panic."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump stopped short of blaming Iran for the attacks on two Saudi oil plants, but he said the country was likely responsible.

"We want to find definitively who did this," he said. "It certainly would look to most like it was Iran."

The president's Secretaries of State, Defense and Energy have all blamed Tehran in tweets. A Saudi Arabian military spokesman said the weapons were Iranian, but was unclear on where the attack originated.

All options appear to be on the table when it comes to Mr. Trump's response. At one point, the president practiced restraint, claiming, "I don't want war with anybody, I'm somebody who would like not to have war." But he also kept open the possibility of U.S. military action, and even suggested a lethal retaliatory strike would be a proportionate response.

Former CIA acting director Michael Morell said the U.S. may have little choice. "It's not only Iran that's under pressure here, they can put pressure back on us," he said. "We have to deter them."

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested a briefing for all House members on the attack on the Saudi facilities, and Democrats are urging caution on any next steps.

"I don't think we need to be the protector of Saudi Arabia," said Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia.

Mr. Trump has also announced that a team led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to Saudi Arabia, and said the U.S. is talking to other countries in the region as he decides how to respond. United Nations inspectors have also traveled to Saudi Arabia to investigate, while the U.S. works on declassifying information to share publicly.

Iran continues to deny any involvement, and the nation's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out talks with the U.S. at any level.
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Pentagon lists projects to be put on back burner by border wall


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to divert funds from military construction projects in nearly half the 50 states, three territories and 19 countries to the southwestern border wall as part of President Trump’s efforts to bypass Congress and redirect spending to his signature campaign promise.

Nearly every facet of military life, from a canceled dining center in Puerto Rico to a small arms firing range in Tulsa, Okla., to an elementary school in Wiesbaden, Germany, will be affected by the transfer of $3.6 billion in congressionally appropriated funds detailed by the Defense Department on Wednesday.

The cuts involve projects such as rifle ranges, aircraft simulators, hangars, port repairs and a cyberoperations center in Virginia, with the biggest impact in Puerto Rico, Guam, New York and New Mexico. In the case of Puerto Rico, the Defense Department plans to divert funds from projects targeted after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017.

The $3.6 billion, taken from 127 projects across the globe, will go toward 11 projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, which include both new construction and some fencing replacement. The longest stretch of new pedestrian fencing — about 52 miles — is scheduled for Laredo, Tex., along the Rio Grande.

Reacting to the Pentagon’s announcement, Democrats assailed what they said was an assault on military readiness and lawmakers from both parties voiced discomfort with what they called an attempt by the White House to subvert their constitutional mandate to set government spending.

Members of Congress began disclosing details about the projects targeted for cuts after Mark T. Esper, the defense secretary, and his department notified them about what projects in their district or state would be affected. The Pentagon later released a full list, with a senior Defense Department official insisting that the military was simply carrying out a lawful order from the president to address a national security emergency at the border.


The phone calls and formal letters from Mr. Esper were the first time that members of Congress had been notified about which specific projects would have their funding reallocated. Lawmakers had pressed both White House officials and the Defense Department to release details of the affected projects since February, when Mr. Trump declared a national emergency at the southwestern border and made the funds available under the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

The Trump administration had promised to notify lawmakers about the projects before both the Senate and the House voted to repeal Mr. Trump’s national emergency declaration and the president vetoed the legislation, which he described as “dangerous,” “reckless” and a “vote against reality.”

Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Esper had “very good conversations with various members of Congress.”

“He feels it’s a national security problem,” Mr. Trump added. “I do, too.”

In a joint statement, two Utah Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, agreed that border protections needed to be strengthened, but said that Congress had ceded power to the executive branch and needed to pass legislation defending its ability to set spending.

“Funding the border wall is an important priority, and the executive branch should use the appropriate channels in Congress, rather than divert already appropriated funding away from military construction projects and therefore undermining military readiness,” Mr. Romney said.

Democrats were more scathing in their objections. A group from the Senate Appropriations Committee, in its own joint statement, recalled that “the president promised Mexico would pay for his wall, not the military and their families.”

“This is a subversion of the will of the American people and their representatives,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “It is an attack on our military and its effectiveness to keep Americans safe.”

The timing of the cuts is likely to intensify the looming debate over how to fund the government and set defense policy, and the Democratic majority in the House and the Republican majority in the Senate will most likely be at odds over whether to replace the funds diverted to the border.

Privately, several Pentagon officials acknowledged that their position was tenuous, since Congress would ultimately have to agree to replace the funds. If Congress does not agree to do that, the projects will be effectively canceled.

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