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.