Iran years ahead of Israel's missile defenses
Israel has no adequate interceptor for Iran's new long-range missile
DEBKAfile Special Report
May 20, 2009, 11:10 PM (GMT+02:00)
Sejil-2, Iran's first accurate surface missile
DEBKAfile's military sources report that Israel, the US and Europe were taken aback by Iran's successful launch Wednesday, May 20, of a two-stage, solid-fueled 2,000-kilometer range missile, but most of all by the accuracy of its aim in destroying its target, as proudly claimed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
US missile tracking systems, including the advanced American anti-missile station at the Nevatim airbase in the Israeli Negev, have confirmed the Iranian President's boast of Sejil-2's precision and other advanced capabilities.
US President Barack Obama "has long been concerned" by any development in Iran's missile program, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, calling the test a "step in the wrong direction".
Western military sources told us later: "Iran is at least two or three years ahead of Israel's missile defenses."
The Arrow 2 anti-missile missile system can intercept a missile like this only when it is very close to Israel. Arrow 3, which is designed to knock such missiles out, won't be operational for several years.
From a worried Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the new missile "that can reach Israel, southeastern Europe and US bases in the Middle East is consistent" with US concerns about Iran's effort to develop ballistic missiles and its nuclear program and the "potential Iranian threat to its neighbors."
Until now, the Americans and Israelis were confident that insurmountable technical difficulties prevented Iran's missile industry from achieving an accurate guidance system. Their earlier missiles fired against Israel would therefore veer off target. This assumption was nullified by the Sejil-2 launch.
Air and missile interception planners in Israel and the US will have to go back to the drawing board for new answers to the new Iranian missile.
Iran's feat comes at a critical time for its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal of at least 10-12 nuclear warheads. It was also timed as a piece of muscle-flexing for the day Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu returned from talks with President Barack Obama in Washington.
The missile's successful launch obviates the strategic value of the understandings reached between the two men regarding the Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
Had the visit produced practical results, as the prime minister and his aides claimed, some American-Israeli response to the launch should have been forthcoming. But the very fact that it was not, indicates that their accords were general and not applicable to fluctuating conditions in the region
Netanyahu indicated that Washington and Jerusalem were agreed that Iran shall not have nuclear weapons. This understanding between the two allies dates from 2002, through the premierships of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Today, we know what these general agreements have permitted Iran to make uninterrupted progress in its nuclear and missile programs.