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Exclusive: Israel Tests New Jericho ICBM, Rattling Sabers Against Iran

jericho III missile

Older version of Israel's Jericho III missle

Let it not be said that Iran is the only country which tests its missiles and brags about it before a world audience. Israel Defense reports that Israel tested a new multi-stage rocket today.  Separately, the Guardian reports:

Israel is extending its Jericho III missile’s range, and is developing an ICBM capability, expanding its nuclear-tipped cruise missile enabled submarine fleet.

CORRECTION: Knowledgeable sources have informed me that the Guardian has mixed two different issues (hence my error below), and that the Jericho III’s size prevents it from being launched by submarine.  It is a land-based missile.  Israel IS expanding its submarine fleet and its sea-based ability to strike Iran.  But this will happen using Tomahawk cruise missiles (which are also nuclear warhead-capable) and not the Jericho III.

An authoritative Israeli source with extensive political and military experience, informs me that the launch was of the latest version of the Jericho III and the announcement is specifically designed to rattle the Iranians.  It will offer Israel a longer-range (see quotation below) missile capable of reaching Iran and beyond.  My source calls it “muscle-flexing.”  Looks like a game of chicken played between two 900-pound gorillas.

The Guardian article linked above is based on a report prepared by a weapons think tank called BASIC (British-American Security Information Council).  It contains an entire chapter on the Israeli missile program (page 27ff.).  Though many of the assumptions of the paper concerning Israeli motivations for having nuclear weapons and the impact this has on the region seem unreasonably charitable to Israel, the paper is nonetheless useful for portraying Israel’s current technical abilities. The report seems to point almost directly to today’s missile launch:

There has been speculation for some time that the Shavit could provide a platform from which Israel could develop an ICBM capability, should it wish to do so, and it now seems to be taking a further step in that direction. A Jericho-III missile, based on the Shavit, is thought to be in development and to have a range of around 4,000-6,500km.

At such a distance, the missile could easily reach Iran.  In fact, it could reach even farther. In light of today’s announcement in Israel Defense, the following passage seems especially telling:

However, to maintain the credibility of its deterrence posture, and to sow confusion in the minds of potential enemies, it is also suspected that Israel itself allows periodic leaks and rumours about its nuclear capabilities to gain traction overseas

To this should be added that the missile launch is a perfect distraction from the woes of Bibi’s foreign policy failures including yesterday’s approval by UNESCO of Palestinian membership and the social justice J14 domestic “disturbance.”  Nothing takes an Israelis mind off his country’s problems, domestic and foreign, like a successful missile launch.

The Guardian also reports the the UK military has begun exercises anticipating British participation in a possible U.S. military strike against Iranian targets:

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

…They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election.

But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.

…The Guardian has been told that planners expect any campaign to be predominantly waged from the air, with some naval involvement, using missiles such as the Tomahawks, which have a range of 800 miles (1,287 km). There are no plans for a ground invasion, but “a small number of special forces” may be needed on the ground, too.

The RAF could also provide air-to-air refuelling and some surveillance capability, should they be required. British officials say any assistance would be cosmetic: the US could act on its own but would prefer not to.

I believe that, just as Israel may be rattling sabers for political advantage, Obama could use threats of a U.S. attack against Iran to bolster his party’s chances in the upcoming elections.  It certainly doesn’t hurt a president when he knocks off a few terrorist bad guys like Bin Laden or Al-Awlaki.  Even if he doesn’t end up attacking, just flexing muscles scores well in voters’ minds.

On a related note, Israel already has three German submarines deployed in 2000.  It paid $1.7 billion in 2005 for up to six new vessels. Two of them are scheduled for delivery in the coming year.  But yesterday, there were news reports that the Germans, angered at Israeli intransigence related to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, might significantly decrease its subsidy of future purchases.  Think of that poor Jericho III all dressed up with no place to go–or from which to be fired! Der Spiegel reports on a 2005 Wikileaks cable that indicates that Germany’s favorable financial terms offered to Israel for purchase of its submarines were motivated in part by Holocaust guilt.  Imagine Germany facilitating possible Israeli nuclear attacks on its neighbors all because it committed genocide against European Jewry.  This has to be some kind of savage, dark irony.

NOTE: Tzinor Layla has just interviewed me and I will be on Tzinor Layla tonight around 12 midnight Israel time.

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{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Moi November 2, 2011, 2:54 AM

    With respect, Jericho missiles (whichever version) are land-based, so lack or availability of submarines is nuncupatory.

    There _are_ SLCM systems that would be impacted by the delivery or lack thereof of subs.

    • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2011, 10:43 AM

      Thanks to the readers who noticed my error which was caused by the Guardian’s earlier one in mixing up the Jericho with Israel’s submarine fleet which uses cruise missiles, not Jericho IIIs.

      • Fred Plester November 2, 2011, 1:19 PM

        Don’t, for pity’s sake, rely on The Guardian for accuracy on any technical detail at all, let alone military technical details.

  • shmuel November 2, 2011, 3:51 AM

    Unfortunately also the air force is active:

    http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/2689/1873672

    and so is the home front:

    http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/2689/1873665

    It’s ominous and frightening, I hope the sensible voices can prevail.

  • pea November 2, 2011, 7:36 AM

    Submarine launched ICBMs send a message to potential adversaries that there is no first strike advantage in a nuclear scenario. Thus if Iran pursues the production of nuclear weapons, and is willing and able to launch a first strike that completely obliterates Israel, Israel will still be able to retaliate with devastating and deadly force. It’s merely a replay of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that kept nuclear holocaust at bay during the Cold War. No wonder the Israelis had no problem letting the world and Iran know about. Also pretty much everyone near Palmachim base saw the rocket go off. My Cousin, who is a school teacher saw it and even with her limited knowledge of rocketry and unconventional warfare, knew that this was no ordinary missile. Mind you she does have some knowledge gained from the Gaza rockets that landed in or near Ashdod these last few days. Lots of time to contemplate all that what with school cancelled for three days. In any case, it can legitimately be argued that the ICBM is defensive in nature and is meant to cool tempers rather than inflame them. But that’s just my take. I should also add that as an Israeli I’m not getting the sense that there’s a significant mobilization going on in preparation for war – Bibi may be engaged in some strategic saber rattling but the mood in the streets is relatively calm.

    • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2011, 10:30 AM

      Iran isn’t willing to launch a first strike against anyone. It is Israel that is far more likely to do so and the ICBM is not a defensive weapon designed to respond to an Iranian attack. It is very much an offensive weapon & will be used that way. Your theorizing is baseless narischkeit. MAD didn’t keep anyone or anything “at bay.” It brought us ever closer to the possibility of nuclear war, which is what the Jericho III does.

    • Yonatan November 2, 2011, 11:52 AM

      “My Cousin, who is a school teacher saw it and even with her limited knowledge of rocketry and unconventional warfare, knew that this was no ordinary missile. Mind you she does have some knowledge gained from the Gaza rockets that landed in or near Ashdod these last few days”

      Are you serious – comparing an unguided missile lacking a warhead with an intercontinental guided missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead?

      • shmuel November 2, 2011, 12:00 PM

        Does it really matter if they actually fired/tested an actual ICBM or only looks as though they might have?

        Deterrant works just as well if the other side thinks they might have the weapon, because one hopes that they will never come to actually use it, as was in the Cold War.

      • Richard Silverstein November 2, 2011, 3:07 PM

        This is a rocket that will propel the nuclear warhead to its Iranian target and incinerate 10 million Iranians. You bet I take it damn seriously.

        • jgarbuz September 24, 2012, 4:56 PM

          I hope so. Better than another 6 million Jews being incinerated, though I would excuse many leftist renegade Jews from that problem. Many of those lefties should have been incinerated 70 years ago.

          • Richard Silverstein September 24, 2012, 8:43 PM

            What a pity. Your hasbara flight got all the way to Ben Gurion approach only to be turned back. Tell the next hasbarist he can make his approach. You’re self-incinerated toast.

  • PersianAdvocate November 2, 2011, 8:08 AM

    The first country to commit suicide? I think so. Funny thing about those missing Ukranian nukes, they might have been bought in 2003 right after the US looked like it was ready to attack Iran in full force.

    Iran has been ready for this fight for nearly a decade thanks to Israeli grandstanding.

    One more thing, no one has connected this, but I believe the Israeli wild-fire was started by Iran covertly as a retaliation strategy for the political assassination of a scientist/academic. Look at the timing. I doubt a 14 year old’s hooka could start a fire of that magnitude and spread. This was a message to Israel: you have no clue what you’re messing with, amateurs, and will get caught with your pants down. As I recall, Netanyahu had to beg Turkey to pee down his throat to put out the fire last time. Forget the rocket strike from Sinai, I think Israel is going to be in for a rude awakening when they realize they already have anti-aircraft artillery stationed WITHIN their borders. How will Israel defend its own air superiority when Hezbollah and Hamas are utilizing advanced weapons that are meant to take them out? And not to mention the fact that Iran would already have troops on the ground IN ISRAEL or on its immediate border at the first millisecond of combat.

    This is a desperate move to retain Israeli hegemony in the region and it will be Israel’s true death knell. Iran will sustain atrocious tragedy, but Israel will be committing suicide and never be able to gain the moral high ground before the international community ever again. The information age does not allow Israel to use the media to its advantage. Hence, more people learning the truth.

  • Duck November 2, 2011, 9:59 AM

    I seriously doubt this is a message for Iran. If it is, what does it mean? What’s the point?

    More likely, this is a message for the west that Israel is willing to start a war, so the U.S. does it first.

    Perhaps even more likely, this is a message for Israeli voters. Fear! Vote Bibi, Bibi has big bad missiles to defend you!

  • PersianAdvocate November 2, 2011, 10:14 AM

    Holocaust guilt causes Germany to dispense with weapons to Israel that murders mass populations?

    In light of everything else that is absolutely ludicrous about Israel, this makes sense. :)

  • Nessim Dayan November 2, 2011, 11:31 AM

    according to front page of The Guardian. The brits are also getting prepared very rapidly should the US decde to attack.
    It seems that everyone is worried with Iran’s bellicose attitude of late and it seems that early spring 2012 is the last before the window closes for an attack. that’s when Iran will have hidden deep inside mountains their nuclear capabilities.
    It seems that there are as of yet no decisions made on this issue but that one will be made sometime around then
    the iaea report of next week will provide fresh ammo for just about everyone to sit down and rationalize that a nuclear Iran is not a safe policy for anyone and everyone
    lord help us all

  • Fred Plester November 2, 2011, 1:15 PM

    UK MoD’s emphasis on contingency plans to cooperate with US action is their way of saying it’s not Israel’s call, as America would have to finish anything that Israel started.

    It’s also a way of reminding Israel that the Americans can only tackle Iran (with assorted strategic bombers and bunker-busters) using a base which the UK controls.

    The repeated suggestion that Iran will retaliate against the US for anything that Israel does, in all circumstances, is a grave mistake on Iran’s part, because it denies President Obama the option of leaving Israel to stew in its own juice if it attacks Iran unilaterally and cannot handle the backlash.

    The Israelis are attempting to lead President Obama by the nose. This doesn’t strike me as his favourite thing and he could very easily give them cause to regret this.

    The precedent would be Roosevelt’s deliberate sabotage of Churchill’s plans to liberate Greece before the Nazis had entirely finished their demolition of the Greek economy and agriculture.

    • John Shreffler November 2, 2011, 4:02 PM

      Or it could be a leak indicating that the US has begun active war prep. Obama has tightened OpSec, so these days the US doesn’t leak much except when it wants to. But that doesn’t extend to the Brits, who have their own agenda.

      BTW, Diego Garcia is nice to have but there a string of bases in Oman that would work fine for hitting Iran. Also Saudi ones that we’d probably deploy to anyway, if asked. Wait and see. It sure smells like something’s up, though it could be an information operation.

      • Fred Plester November 3, 2011, 2:05 AM

        I’ve scrapped sufficient Omani desert dust out of enough avionics modules to have some doubts about operating B1B and B2 bombers from there.

        When you buy a bagless vacuum cleaner, there’s usually a disclaimer in the instructions about expecting it to work for very long after sucking up extremely fine abrasive dust. Much of Oman, and quite a lot of the UAE, appears to be composed of precisely the material the vacuum cleaner manufacturers are warning you about.

  • pea November 2, 2011, 2:48 PM

    Richard: You are totally right! How dumb could I have been to not realize that an ICBM cannot be launched from the relatively modest diesel powered German submarines in Israel’s possession!? I really should have known better… I guess I should have stuck to attributing the Carmel fire to stealthy Iranian agents based on…. or calling the 4th most powerful military in the world a bunch of armatures… etc. Mea Culpa ;)

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