Irresponsible threats are bad for Iran

Iranian Shihab-3 missileIn a really surprising display of irresponsibility, the Iranian regime has threatened Israel with a massive missile attack:

Six hundred Iranian Shihab-3 missiles are pointed at targets throughout Israel, and will be launched if either Iran or Syria are attacked, an Iranian website affiliated with the regime reported on Monday.

“Iran will shoot at Israel 600 missiles if it is attacked,” the Iranian news website, Assar Iran, reported. “600 missiles will only be the first reaction.”

According to the report, dozens of locations throughout Iraq, which are being used by the US Army, have also been targeted. — Jerusalem Post

The Shihab-3 missile, a liquid-fueled IRBM based on the North Korean “Nodong”, can easily reach any point in Israel and can carry a nuclear warhead. Even without this it can be quite destructive, with some versions able to carry a one ton payload.

But the threat is less significant than one might imagine.

The missile must be fueled before firing, which makes it much more vulnerable to being destroyed on the ground, unlike the solid-fueled Katyusha. It can also — unlike the flat-trajectory Katyushas and Qassams — be targeted by anti-missile systems like the Arrow and Patriot. And it could not be a surprise attack.

There is one overriding reason, however, that such a missile attack on Israel will not occur, and that is Israel’s strategic deterrent. A strike of this kind, although there would be many casualties, would not even come close to achieving Ahmadinejad’s goal of wiping Israel off the map, but would trigger a counterstrike — maybe even before the Iranian missiles lift off — that would certainly put an end to the Iranian economy, military and regime. And there would not be a ‘second reaction’.

So, assuming that the Iranians know this, what’s the point of their threat? Simply this: to send a message to the US and Israel that an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities would be very expensive. Possibly they will decide, think the Iranians, that it’s not worth it.

But — and this is why I said that the threat was irresponsible — the message that will be received is the following: an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities must be combined with a major strike against overall Iranian military capabilities, particularly the missile forces. It doesn’t pay to slap a dangerous enemy and hope that he won’t respond; you have to knock him out.

If Israel and/or the US believe that there is no alternative to military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program, then there is also no alternative to massive military action.

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