MACK WILLIAMS. The CSIS report on Iran’s missile program

Sep 20, 2019

In The Iranian Missile Threat, published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington DC: 30 May 2019), Anthony Cordesman examines Iran’s view of the threat, the problems in military modernization that have led to its focus on missile forces, the limits to its air capabilities, the developments in its missile forces, and the war fighting capabilities provided by its current missile forces, its ability to develop conventionally armed precision-strike forces, and its options for deploying nuclear-armed missiles.

The report is a detailed survey from open sources of the current Iranian missile capability. Iran has now spent many years concentrating on its missile development since the doors closed to it being able to purchase more sophisticated aircraft from not only the West but also from Russia and China. It has had significant assistance from China, Russia and North Korea in its missile and drone development – especially for its air defence from the large quantities of sophisticated aircraft purchased by Saudi and the Gulf State. It has also had a lot of practical experience with actually deploying its missile and drone capabilities and learning in the process.

The assessment stresses that there is still plenty of uncertainty about the quantities and capabilities of the Iranian missile and drone forces but evidence suggested significant improvement was underway on both scores. Among its conclusions it also posited the possible option of Iran triggering a mass mixed launch of missiles and drones flying especially at low altitudes towards targets like the Aramco one.

All of which begs the question: If Cordesman concluded all of this from ‘open sources’, why did not the huge amounts spent by the Saudis and US on defence systems prepare for such an attack? Especially as the CSIS has close links with the US defence community. It beggars belief that because of the Houthi threat all the defences were pointed to the south! It could well also illustrate how ineffective the US supplied systems and/or its operators were. Which allowed Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to draw laughs at his summit with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani by offering the Saudis the Russian S300 or 400 – which Iran now has and which Turkey is in the process of deploying!

It may also be of note that the latest locator of the USN carrier groups has the  Abraham Lincoln and its group located outside the Persian Gulf in the Gulf of Oman. The USS Boxer and its Amphibious Ready Group group ( including a Marine Brigade) is reported as being in the Arabian Gulf  – having just changed its commanding officer.

The full report can be found here.

Mack Williams former Australian Ambassador, Royal College of Defence Studies

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