Iran responds to west's sanctions threat by, um, test-firing nuclear-capable missiles

Nothing to worry about. Just a figment of your fearmongering, military-industrial imagination.

Iranian state television said the Revolutionary Guards, which controls Iran’s missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shihab-3 and Sajjil-2 missiles. Both can carry nuclear warheads and can reach up to 2,000 kilometers, putting Israel, US military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance…

The Sajjil’s solid fuel propellant means it can be stored for significant amounts of time in underground missile silos prior to being launched.

Time magazine poses an interesting question: Will the nuclear standoff re-energize Iran’s green revolution? A Mousavi spokesman seized the moment over the weekend by insisting that their side doesn’t want a nuclear bomb, but (a) Khamenei and Ahmadinejad say the same thing and no one believes them, and (b) Mousavi himself issued a statement tonight expressing his opposition … to sanctions.

In Tehran, however, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi spoke out Monday against any sanctions, saying they would force ordinary people to pay the price of the “wrong and adventurist foreign policies of the government.” In a statement posted on a Web site affiliated with him, Mousavi said: “Sanctions will cause great pain to many people for whom the plight of being ruled by paranoid statesmen is enough.” A former prime minister, Mousavi has emerged as the leading political foe of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following a disputed presidential election in June.

Don’t expect any galvanization, in other words. I’m tempted to give you Gibbs’s White House spin on the missile tests today, but in lieu of that here’s lefty nuke expert Joseph Cirincione delivering Team Barry’s talking points even better than they can. In a nutshell: Obama’s a genius, we’re holding all the cards, and today’s tests are likely just a peevish little expression of machismo ahead of Iranian concessions at nuclear talks this week. (cont’d below)

If you believe the Daily Express, the Saudis are sufficiently skeptical that any concessions are forthcoming that they’ve already greenlighted an Israeli attack on Iran; as my own two cents, I’d add that North Korea has a habit of sporadically firing off missiles too and they remain a nuclear threat to this day, as far as I know. If doves want a real reason to believe that Iran’s not as crazy or reckless as it seems, read down into today’s NYT piece on the missile test for details about the Revolutionary Guard buying up 51 percent of Iran’s telecom company. They’ve been expanding their economic reach into every major Iranian industry for years now, which is actually a relief in one sense: The greedier and more corrupt they are, the less likely they are to do something nutty that would disturb that. They’ve turned huge swaths of Iran’s economy into a racket, and a man with a good racket going normally isn’t inclined to disturb that. Emphasis on normally.

Update: Better late than never, Ron Rosenbaum awakens to the fact that the 2007 NIE alleging that Iran’s bomb project had ceased in 2003 was a politically motivated debacle by U.S. intelligence:

But the disgraceful 2007 NIE minimized the other two aspects of nuclear weapons making.

It should be a major intelligence scandal and despite efforts by the heads of US intelligence to walk it back after the fact, it became the conventional wisdom of all too much of the wonk and pundit community. When are they going to fess up that they were had?

Shouldn’t the journalists who were conned by the 2007 NIE (just about all of them), fooled again so soon after the Iraq intelligence fiasco, be doing everything they can to see who suckered them and why? Or are they afraid it will just further expose their ignorance?

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