24 Feb 2012 | Israel is claiming that Iran is thisclose to developing a missile that can hit American soil. But missile and intelligence experts say Tehran has a long, technically complex road to travel before it can threaten Manhattan.
From getting all the rocket thrusters to work properly to developing heat shields that can withstand the stresses of rapid atmospheric reentry, Iran is probably many years away from getting an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The American spy apparatus, which once hyped the Iranian missile threat, has quietly stopping saying when Iran can hit the east coast. And the irony is that it’s taking Iran so long precisely because its missile efforts really are sophisticated.
“The bottom line,” says Paul Pillar, a veteran CIA Mideast analyst, “is that the intelligence community does not believe [the Iranians] are anywhere close to having an ICBM.”
That, however, isn’t the message out of
JerusalemIsrael. Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told CNBC on Wednesday Iran was “two to three years” away from slamming a missile into New York, Boston or Washington. Its strategic-affairs minister, Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, issued that same warning earlier this month, but declined to say when Iran’s mega-missile would be ready.
Chances are, the Israelis are hyping the Iranian missile threat so their American friends will consider the Iranian threat more acute. They’re not happy with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for saying on Sunday that an Israeli attack on Iran was “not prudent.” But few missile or intelligence experts believe the new claim of an imminent Iranian ICBM is going to change Dempsey’s mind, or anyone else’s, because it’s far-fetched.
It’s true that Tehran has a robust missile program. Its stockpiles of Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which top out at 800 miles, strike fear into the hearts of Arab Gulf states. Israel has real reason to fear the development of its Sejjil medium-range ballistic missile, a more sophisticated weapon, that could maybe reach Israel in a few years. And unlike rogue-state missile flameouts like North Korea, Iran is able to launch satellites into space, which is a key ICBM step (since any intercontinental missile is going to have to fly through space in order to attack a foe so far away).
But none of that adds up to Iran getting a missile that can travel the 6,000 miles necessary for striking America any time soon …
Read More: Wired
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