Iran tests missiles again, candidates react

Iran tested its missile technology again, firing nine missiles in a transparent message to both Israel and the US.  Saying that their missiles “will always be ready to launch”, the Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force warned that “empty psychological operations” would not intimidate Tehran.  The White House told them to calm down:

Revolutionary Guards air force commander Hossein Salami said in televised comments that thousands of missiles were ready to be fired at “pre-determined targets.” Missiles were shown soaring from desert launchpads, leaving long vapor trails.

“We warn the enemies who intend to threaten us with military exercises and empty psychological operations that our hand will always be on the trigger and our missiles will always be ready to launch,” he said, according to ISNA news agency.

The White House told Iran to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world.”

Both presidential candidates weighed in on the test.  Barack Obama spoke to Matt Lauer on Today:

John McCain, meanwhile, responded with this statement:

Iran’s most recent missile tests demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel. Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran’s continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran’s dangerous ambitions. Iran’s missile tests also demonstrate the need for effective missile defense now and in the future, and this includes missile defense in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland. Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy.

Obama’s response is a muddle. He wants “much tougher” economic sanctions, which the Bush administration would also like, but can’t get because of Russia and China. Obama then says we should “avoid provocation”, which contradicts his own statement about “much tougher” economic sanctions. Sanctions are provocations; otherwise, they wouldn’t work at all.

And let’s not forget how Obama acted when given the opportunity to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. He voted against the Kyl-Lieberman bill that named the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, placing those tougher sanctions on the Iranian military and everyone associated with them. His website still brags about that vote, and Obama attacked Hillary Clinton for supporting it. Why? Maybe because he didn’t consider Iran a threat, until, you know, he did.

Also, listen to the first part of his response. Obama says he would first need to “gather intelligence” before responding. That’s very similar to what Obama said in a debate, in response to a Tim Russert question about his response to an attack on American cities conducted by al-Qaeda, identified by irrefutable evidence. How much intel does one need to gather on a missile test using well-known systems? It’s pretty clear they went up in the air, and it’s pretty clear that the Iranians openly challenged us with it.

He then walks through the tired “outsourcing” argument on diplomacy with Iran. The US has pursued a multilateral approach with Iran, leveraging the trading relationships with Iran’s partners in Europe. We do not have diplomatic relations with Iran for good reason — they sponsor terrorism around the world, targeting American assets and those of our allies. Democrats used to complain that Bush was a unilateralist, and now they complain that he’s not. It’s absurd, especially since the supposed partner with whom Obama would speak, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the worst provocateur in the region.

McCain has this right. The best response to Iran’s missile testing is the rapid deployment of anti-missile technology within the range of the Shahab-2 and -3 missiles, as well as increased diplomatic and economic isolation.