Iran test-fired a new missile platform earlier today, the Sajjil-2, a solid-fuel missile capable of reaching throughout the Middle East and into Europe. It’s exactly the kind of weapon against which the American missile shield would have defended Europe, had we continued to install our systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as the eventual longer-range missiles these tests will produce. The Iranians used the test to demonstrate its intention to retaliate for any attempt to stop its nuclear-weapons program through military means:
Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West. …
State television broke the news in a one-sentence report accompanied by a brief clip of the test, showing the missile rising from the launch pad in a cloud of smoke.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi vowed that the Sajjil-2 would be a “strong deterrent” against any possible foreign attack. He said the new version can be fired more quickly and flies faster than previous ones making it harder to shoot down, though he did not give further details.
“Given its high speed,” he said, speaking on state TV, “it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability.”
It may be impossible to shoot down, but not because of “radar-evading ability.” It’s impossible because Iran’s Russian allies successfully pushed Barack Obama out of deploying the missile defense system where it would work against the Sajjil-2. Iran doesn’t have to worry about having these shot down if they wish to threaten Europe and NATO and extort their silence while Iran completes its nuclear bomb.
The move to the exclusive use of solid fuel (the Shahab-3 used both solid and liquid fuel) is worrisome. With the Shahab-3, we could see the fueling and the staging of the missile before its launch. That would give us time to attack the launch site if we thought it necessary. The Sajjil-2 can be fueled far in advance and then hidden in silos, giving us only a few minutes warning on any launch. If the Iranians put a nuclear warhead on the Sajjil-2, defending against it will be very difficult, even if we do manage to install defensive systems where it counts.
Jammie Wearing Fool notes that Barack Obama’s self-assigned “good, solid B-plus” was predicated in part on Obama’s assertion that he had “made progress toward halting development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea.” However, as Fox News analyst Michael Tobin reports, this test shows that Iran is accelerating its efforts:
This test also shows Iran ’s aggressiveness with the missile program. “The advance rate is phenomenal,” says Rubin, noting that Iran has now conducted three missile tests in 13 months. It shows just how high a priority missile technology is for the Shiite regime. Rubin says, “They need to keep testing to prove their past successes were not spurious.”
The Iranians have succeeded in stalling the world while it pushes ever faster to both a nuclear weapon and a launch vehicle to carry it. Any idea that we have somehow begun “halting” this push is either a lie or terminal naïveté.
Update: McKittrick at Closing Velocity noted yesterday that the US had shifted the focus of its missile-defense testing from North Korea to Iran, despite an earlier contention that the Iranian threat had “slowed.” He called shenanigans yesterday, and it looks like he was right to do so.
Update II: McKittrick has a new post assessing this latest test. He concludes:
Impossible to destroy? No, not really.
But intercepting the Sajjil-2 is certainly more challenging, especially with a stripped-down European missile defense architecture that focuses exclusively on short- and medium-range missiles. Yesterday’s announcement that the US is planning an unprecedented missile defense test against an Iranian ICBM could not be more timely. It will be the first time we’ve wargamed our longest-range GBI interceptor against an Iranian threat rather than our tradtional North Korean scenarios.
And again, one of the two reasons President Obama discarded long-range GBI interceptors in Europe was because of an intelligence assessment claiming the Iranians would not produce ICBMs any time soon. How’s that working out for you?
He also has video of the launch.
Update III: The Cold War strikes again! Well, at least in my first paragraph. That should have read “Czech Republic,” not “Czechoslovakia.” Thanks to Steve Eggleston for the reminder.