Zwei Studien renommierter US-Institute [Nähere Informationen siehe im Kasten unten] erregen derzeit in Washington einiges Aufsehen. Die »Denkfabriken« New Yorker Ost-West-Institut und die Rand Corporation, die der US-Luftwaffe angegliedert ist, beschäftigen sich darin mit dem Verhältnis zum Iran. Insbesondere relativieren sie in den am Mittwoch veröffentlichten Arbeiten die seit Jahren behauptete »iranische Bedrohung«.
So kommt die Gruppe von US-amerikanischen und russischen Wissenschaftlern, Ingenieuren und Militärexperten in der
zu dem Schluß, daß Teheran, selbst wenn es ein militärisches Atomprogramm hätte, technologisch noch mindestens fünf bis sechs Jahre brauchen würde, Nuklearwaffen und für deren Einsatz nötige Raketen zu bauen.
Demnach besteht zumindest kein Grund für alarmistische Hektik, die insbesondere von Israel, dem einzigen Atomwaffenstaat des Mittleren Ostens, verbreitet wird. Dessen Ministerpräsident Benjamin Netanjahu hatte noch zu Wochenbeginn bei seinem Antrittsbesuch in Washington dafür geworben, die Iran-Frage zum wichtigsten Punkt der US-Mittelostpolitik zu machen, also noch vor eine Lösung des Palästinakonfliktes zu setzen. Allerdings widersprach ihm diesbezüglich US-Präsident Barack Obama auf der Pressekonferenz am Montag, als er erklärte, erst die Zwei-Staaten-Lösung in Palästina werde dafür den Weg bereiten, Teherans Einfluß in der Region zu verringern und eine Lösung der Iran-Frage begünstigen.
werden insbesondere die Resultate einer bereits 2007 begonnenen Forschungsarbeit über die politischen, ökonomischen und militärischen Entwicklungen und Perspektiven in Iran präsentiert. Auch dieser Bericht entkräftet die bisher in den USA verbreiteten iranischen Bedrohungsszenarien. So wird beispielsweise sachlich festgestellt, daß »bedeutende Hürden und Barrieren« den Plänen der Teheraner Regierung im Wege stehen. Diese beständen in regionalen, ethnischen und religiösen Unterschieden in der Gesellschaftsstruktur des Landes. Außerdem verfüge Iran nur »über begrenzte, konventionelle militärische Kapazitäten« und sei außerdem »diplomatisch isoliert«.
Empfohlen wird eine Kursänderung in der Politik gegenüber Teheran. Statt, wie bisher, weiter zu versuchen, mit Hilfe von Agenten und verdeckten Operationen in Iran Unruhe zu stiften, was zu nichts führe, sollte Washington Schnittstellen für gemeinsame Interessen beider Seiten suchen, zum Beispiel beim Thema Afghanistan. Dabei dürften die seit einiger Zeit von US- und NATO-Strategen angestellten Überlegungen eine Rolle spielen, Iran als Transitkorridor zur logistischen Unterstützung des Kriegs in Afghanistan einzubeziehen. So könnte die zunehmend unsicherere Route durch Pakistan entlastet werden.
Zugleich empfiehlt die Rand-Studie, die »manchmal aggressive, religiös eingefärbte Rhetorik« der Regierenden in Teheran nicht auf die Goldwaage zu legen und statt dessen die iranische Führung an ihren Handlungen zu messen. Deren Außenpolitik sei nämlich von dem legitimen Ziel bestimmt, die territoriale Integrität des Landes zu erhalten und das Überleben Irans als Islamische Republik zu sichern - und nicht von dem Wunsch, Ideologie zu exportieren, so der Bericht. Auch die im Westen weit verbreitete Ansicht, daß militante Bewegungen wie Hisbollah und Hamas oder andere, gegen Israel und die USA agierende Gruppen in Irak direkt von Teheran kontrolliert würden, stimme nicht. Iran habe »nur begrenzten Einfluß« auf diese Organisationen.
Die Studie des Ost-West-Institut mit dem Titel »Iran's Nuclear and Missile Potential« (Irans Atom- und Raketenpotential) kommt zudem zu dem Schluß, daß das von der Bush-Administration für Polen und Tschechien geplante, angeblich gegen die iranische Bedrohung gerichtete ballistische Raketenabwehrsystem unsinnig ist. Außerdem - so heißt es in dem Bericht weiter - sei ein iranischer Angriff höchst unwahrscheinlich, da mit dem dann erfolgenden Gegenschlag die Islamische Republik total zerstört würde.
U.S. Strategy Should Avoid Inflating Iran's Role in Middle East Instability, Exploit Constraints on Iranian Power and Seek Areas of Engagement
Iran's rise as a regional power presents a key foreign policy and security challenge to the United States, but its reach may be more limited than Western conventional wisdom suggests, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.
U.S. strategy must recognize Iran's role as an influential, but not omnipotent, player in the Middle East and work to exploit existing barriers to Iran's harmful activities, while simultaneously seeking areas of engagement, the study finds.
The study by RAND, a non-profit research organization, finds that a Cold-War-style containment approach mischaracterizes the threat from Iran, risking missed opportunities and potentially damaging other U.S. interests in the region. A combination of containment and engagement is more likely to succeed.
The report, "Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East," is an in-depth survey of the strategic challenges posed by Iran, as well as limitations to its power projection.
According to the authors, the Islamic Republic does not seek territorial aggrandizement or, despite its rhetoric, the imposition of its revolutionary ideology onto neighboring Middle Eastern states. Instead, the authors find that Tehran feeds off longstanding grievances with the status quo, particularly in the Arab world, often playing the role of "arsonist and fireman" to exaggerate its clout in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.
Specifically, the report focuses on four key areas: the Iranian regime's underlying perception of itself in the world as a regional and even global power; its conventional military buildup and aspirations for asymmetric warfare; its support for militant non-state organizations in Iraq and Lebanon; and Tehran's ability to exploit pan-Arab causes, such as Palestine, and anti-Western sentiment.
"Iranian power projection and ambitions in the Middle East are among the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States," said Frederic Wehrey, the report's lead author and a senior policy analyst at RAND. "But Tehran's aspirations are circumscribed by barriers in the regional system it is trying to influence, as well as its own domestic disarray, limited conventional capacity, and frequent strategic missteps."
The report finds that Iranian power faces serious liabilities that the United States can exploit. Despite its outward assertiveness and revolutionary rhetoric, the regime's strategic calculus is tempered by some pragmatic tendencies. Key aspects of the Islamic Republic's developing military capabilities, particularly ballistic missiles and naval tactics, increasingly threaten U.S. and allied interests. Yet its large conventional forces are structurally weak, suffer from unrealistic training, and require considerable resources.
Tehran's close relationships with so-called "proxy" groups like Hamas and Hizballah do not necessarily translate into direct Iranian control over their activities. And while Iran has at times been successful in exploiting Arab popular opinion on Palestine and the nuclear issue, it has often overplayed its hand, provoking sharp criticism in the Arab media, the study finds.
To exploit these limitations on Iranian power, the authors recommend a new approach that integrates elements of engagement and containment. This includes:
Applying increased multilateral pressure on Iran's nuclear ambitions while deescalating unilateral U.S. pressure on Iran;
- Pursuing bilateral U.S.-Iranian dialogues in areas of common interest, such as stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, narcotics trafficking, and humanitarian crises
- Issuing unambiguous statements about U.S. interests and intentions in the region; and
- Engaging in efforts to build a cooperative, multilateral regional security framework that is simultaneously inclusive of Iran and sensitive to the needs of U.S. friends and allies in the region.
Other authors of the study are David E. Thaler, Nora Bensahel, Kim Cragin, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Nadia Oweidat, and Jennifer Li of RAND, and Jerrold D. Green of the Pacific Council on International Policy.
The report, "Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East," is available at www.rand.org.
The study was prepared by RAND Project AIR FORCE, a federally funded research and development center for studies and analysis aimed at providing independent policy alternatives for the U.S. Air Force.
Iranian power projection and regional ambitions are among the most
pressing foreign policy challenges facing the United States. U.S. observers
of the Islamic Republic, regardless of their political persuasion, have
noted with alarm the country’s new assertiveness on the Middle Eastern
stage, its buildup of conventional military capability, and its apparently
inexorable drive for nuclear energy in defiance of international
criticism. The challenges posed by the Islamic Republic are especially
acute from the perspective of the USAF: Airpower will likely be the
military instrument of “first resort” to project U.S. power into Iran’s
unstable neighborhood, reassure allies, and dissuade Iran from aggression
or adventurism. In the minds of Iranian policymakers, U.S. airpower
has assumed a similar prominence. Tehran’s fear of encirclement
and strangulation by the United States stems in large measure from
the proximity of the USAF’s presence in neighboring states. And as
evidenced by the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, this proximity places
USAF lives and assets at risk from asymmetric terrorist attacks and,
increasingly, Iran’s ballistic missiles.
To accurately gauge the strategic challenges from Iran over a tento
fifteen-year horizon, this study sought to assess the motivations of
the Islamic Republic, not just its capabilities. This approach, although
difficult given the complexities of the Iranian system, is critical in identifying potential sources of caution and pragmatism in Iran’s policy
formulation. Our exploration of Iranian strategic thinking revealed that ideology and bravado frequently mask a preference for opportunism
and realpolitik—the qualities that define “normal” state behavior.
Similarly, when we canvassed Iran’s power projection options, we identified
not only the extent of the threats posed by each but also their
limitations and liabilities. In each case, we found significant barriers
and buffers to Iran’s strategic reach rooted in both the regional geopolitics
it is trying to influence and in its limited conventional military
capacity, diplomatic isolation, and past strategic missteps. Similarly,
tensions between the regime and Iranian society—segments of which
have grown disenchanted with the Republic’s revolutionary ideals—
can also act as a constraint on Iranian external behavior.
This leads to our conclusion that analogies to the Cold War are
mistaken: The Islamic Republic does not seek territorial aggrandizement
or even, despite its rhetoric, the forcible imposition of its revolutionary
ideology onto neighboring states. Instead, it feeds off existing
grievances with the status quo, particularly in the Arab world. Traditional
containment options may actually create further opportunities
for Tehran to exploit, thereby amplifying the very influence the United
States is trying to mitigate. A more useful strategy, therefore, is one that
exploits existing checks on Iran’s power and influence. These include the
gap between its aspiration for asymmetric warfare capabilities and the
reality of its rather limited conventional forces, disagreements between
Iran and its militant “proxies,” and the potential for sharp criticism
from Arab public opinion, which it has long sought to exploit. In addition,
we recommend a new U.S. approach to Iran that integrates elements
of engagement and containment while de-escalating unilateral
U.S. pressure on Tehran and applying increased multilateral pressure
against its nuclear ambitions. The analyses that informed these conclusions
also yielded the following insights for U.S. planners and strategists
concerning Iran’s strategic culture, conventional military, ties to
Islamist groups, and ability to influence Arab public opinion.
Assertiveness and Caution Define Iran’s Strategic Culture
Our assessment of Iranian leadership dynamics, threat perception, and
regional strategy reveals competing tendencies toward adventurism and
pragmatism. This stems from a number of factors.
Many within the current regime appear to view Iran as an indispensable
regional power, but not necessarily a revolutionary hegemon.
There is the further belief that the Islamic Republic is a model for
Islamic enlightenment everywhere and the preeminent Islamic state
in the region, providing a geopolitical bridge between Asia and the
Middle East. As a result of these perceived attributes, the Iranian leadership
has shown a marked tendency not only to push for a greater role
in regional affairs but also to exaggerate Iran’s strategic profile on the
Yet it does not follow that Iran is currently an expansionist, revolutionary
state. Its revolutionary ideology has certainly featured prominently
in the rhetoric of its officials. However, the record of Iranian
actions suggests that these views should be more accurately regarded
as the vocabulary of Iranian foreign policy rather than its determinant.
Nationalism, sovereignty, and regime survival are the more fundamental
drivers of Iran’s external behavior. For example, even in Shi’itedominated
Iraq, Iran is not seeking to export its revolutionary goals,
despite the fact that it would ultimately prefer clerical rule as a final
outcome. Today, many officials in Tehran see the United States as an
anti–status quo, revolutionary power seeking to reshape the Middle
East by exporting secularism, democracy, and, more recently, sectarianism.
(See pp. 8–14.)
The Iranian threat perception blurs internal and external concerns.
The regime has a marked tendency to conflate domestic instability
with external meddling. Although the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan
and Iraq eliminated Iran’s most serious regional adversaries, it still
faces serious threats with the potential to wreak internal havoc. The
spread of crime, weapons, and sectarian tensions from Iraq has animated
ethnic activists in the provinces of Kordestan and Khuzestan
(which border Iraq) and even in the eastern province of Baluchestan.
These concerns have informed Iran’s trilateral cooperation with Syria
and Turkey over the Kurds, its involvement in Iraq, and its decision to
repatriate Afghan refugees. Leading clerics in Iran are also concerned
about the theological challenge stemming from Shi’ite seminaries in
Iraq. The learning centers of Najaf and Karbala long dominated Shi’ite
discourse before being suppressed by Ba’athist regimes in Iraq; they are now reemerging with the potential to overshadow their Iranian
counterparts in Qom. Finally, the Iranian leadership continues to perceive
an existential threat posed to the Islamic Republic by the United
States. This has made it highly sensitive to internal “interference” by
the United States, particularly U.S. promotion of civil society and support
for ethnic activists. One result of these fears has been an intensified
crackdown on academic exchanges, social liberalism, and freedom
of expression. In some cases, however, the regime is cynically exploiting
this threat to bolster sagging popular support for the revolution.
(See pp. 15–22.)
Regime factionalism affects external behavior. The Iranian system
is beset with factionalism. Decisionmaking requires consensus; therefore,
the number and complexity of these factions, combined with the
individual reluctance and inability to make decisions, make it very difficult
for the system to change course or to make significant decisions.
Moreover, competing factions frequently use foreign policy issues to
subvert or outmaneuver their rivals. This is particularly the case given
the Revolutionary Guard’s efforts to consolidate its control over key
domestic institutions. Also, the country’s worsening economic situation
and increasing isolation over the nuclear issue has been a boon to
factional opponents of President Ahmadinejad. Finally, the ongoing
nuclear crisis may be at least partially fueled by internal maneuvering
and bureaucratic competition. The net effect of these internal dynamics
is an erratic, unpredictable, and frequently escalatory foreign policy.
(See pp. 22–31.)
Iran Pursues a Multifaceted Regional Strategy Marked by Strengths and Limitations
As noted above, Iran views itself as a status quo power, preferring
to assert a greater role for itself within the existing regional system
rather than refashion that system according to its revolutionary vision.
This has resulted in an ambitious, activist policy that hinges on three
themes: deterrence and homeland defense, support for Islamist militant
groups (both for symbolic reasons and as a retaliatory capability), and the currying of favor with publics in the Arab world to circumvent
official hostility from other regimes in the region. Within each of these
vectors are factors that both aid Iranian power and circumscribe it.
(See pp. 31–37.)
Despite asymmetric doctrinal ambitions, Iran fields a weak conventional
force. Iranian leaders have long trumpeted their shift to an
asymmetric strategy of homeland defense that would exact intolerable
costs from an invader. Much of this rests on notions of “mosaic defense,”
partisan warfare, and popular mobilization of Basiji auxiliaries. On the
whole, however, Iran’s military remains mired in conventional doctrine
because of bureaucratic inertia in procurement and frequent infighting
between the Revolutionary Guard and conventional forces. Most of
Iran’s military equipment is out of date and poorly maintained, and
its ground forces suffer from both personnel and equipment shortages.
With its outdated aircraft, the Iranian Air Force, in particular, is no
match for its neighbors and certainly not for U.S. airpower. (See pp.
Tehran’s layered and overlapping security structures, while useful
for regime survivability, inhibit battlefield performance and reduce its
capability to defend against external threats. This is reflected in the
shortcomings evident in Iran’s nationwide exercises between the air,
ground, and sea components of the Revolutionary Guard and regular
forces. Although touted as “joint,” they usually devolve into organizational
or service-specific training that appears highly scripted and choreographed.
(See pp. 42–49.)
Some of Iran’s asymmetric capabilities are threatening. Because of
its inferior conventional military forces, Iran’s defense doctrine, particularly
its ability to deter aggressors, relies heavily on asymmetric warfare.
Iranian strategists favor guerilla efforts that offer superior mobility,
fighting morale, and popular support (e.g., the Hezbollah model in
Lebanon) to counter a technologically superior conventional power—
namely, the United States. At the high end of the spectrum, Iran has
strong motives and means to develop advanced ballistic missile and
nuclear weapon capabilities. This reliance on asymmetric capabilities
can threaten Western interests in a variety of ways, particularly on the
naval front. Iran’s mining capability, antiship cruise missiles, and innovative “swarming” tactics could impede maritime access in the Strait of
Hormuz. (See pp. 64–70.)
The Revolutionary Guard also possesses a significant arsenal of
short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that can reach the small
Persian Gulf states, Afghanistan, Israel, eastern Turkey, and most of
Saudi Arabia. Although these missiles are currently inaccurate and
thus have limited military utility, improvements in their range, ability
to carry unconventional warheads, and accuracy would significantly
enhance Iran’s ability to threaten large population centers, economic
infrastructure, and military bases. (See pp. 65–66.)
Iran has limited leverage over so-called proxy groups. To compensate
for its conventional inferiority, Iran has long provided financial and
military support to a variety of non-state Islamist groups. According to
Revolutionary Guard doctrine, this “peripheral strategy” is intended to
give strategic depth to Iran’s homeland defense, taking the fight deep
into the enemy’s camp. In the cases of Hamas and Hezbollah, this
strategy also buys Iran legitimacy among Arab publics who are frustrated
with their regimes’ seemingly status quo approach. In effect,
Tehran is being “more Arab than the Arabs” on issues such as Palestine.
(See pp. 34–35 and pp. 84–86.)
In supporting major Shi’ite militant groups in Iraq and Lebanon,
Tehran may expect a degree of reciprocity. This is particularly the case
in the event of a U.S. strike, in which Iran might expect these groups to
act unflinchingly as retaliatory agents. Yet this expectation may be misplaced.
In Iraq, for instance, Iranian funds and military assistance are
not essential to the survival of major Shi’ite political factions. Furthermore,
some of these groups depend extensively on promoting an image
of Iraqi nationalism for domestic support and thus prefer to maintain
a degree of separation from Tehran. In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s behavior
is also informed by questions of domestic legitimacy; it has recently
taken great pains to publicly distance itself from Iranian patronage.
Thus, in the event of conflict between the United States and
Iran, the willingness of these groups to retaliate purely in the service
of Tehran should not be assumed as automatic. Instead, they will carefully
weigh the benefits of such actions against the risks to their own local agendas. Fractionalization and dissent may occur between pro-
Iranian, anti-Iranian, and neutral factions. In some cases, Tehran may
actively cultivate these splits, or the groups’ leadership may secretly
subcontract attacks to a spin-off or “rogue element.” (See pp. 102–103
and p. 123.)
In short, it is best to conceive of Iran as exerting influence over its
Shi’ite allies, but not control.
Iran has long sought to exploit Arab opinion, with mixed success.
Aside from its support to non-state actors, Tehran also views Arab
public opinion as an important vector for power projection. Tehran
uses this strategy to exert pressure on unfriendly regimes and their
Western allies. Employing both local media and its own transnational
outlets (such as its Arabic-language satellite channel al-Alam), Iran has
portrayed itself as a populist challenger of the status quo, a champion
of the Palestinian cause, the patron of Hezbollah, and a beleaguered
victim of Western double standards on the nuclear issue. Tehran’s
belief that it can count on Arab public support and its attempts to
be “more Arab than the Arabs” have resulted in frequently bellicose
behavior. Indeed, Ahmadinejad’s antagonism toward Israel, defiance
of U.S. pressure on the nuclear program, and populist charisma have
earned him accolades from Arab publics. Iran’s appeal in the region
skyrocketed following Hezbollah’s summer 2006 war with Israel. (See
pp. 36–37 and pp. 129–130.)
However, our analysis of key media outlets and external polling
reveals that popular Arab support for Iran remains a fickle strategic
resource. In many cases, Arab opinion can rapidly swing from praise
to condemnation based on events that are beyond Iran’s control or
because of its own strategic missteps. Growing sectarian tensions in
Iraq and the perception of Shi’ite political ascendancy in the region
have spurred trepidation about Iran throughout the Arab world, particularly
after the execution of Saddam Hussein. Arab governments
in particular are concerned about Tehran’s ability to circumvent official
diplomatic channels and appeal directly to ordinary Arabs, thereby
threatening their own legitimacy. Among the Persian Gulf states,
the Saudi and Bahraini governments fear Iran’s attempts to mobilize
Shi’ite populations within their borders, particularly in the event of a U.S. strike. Yet our own field research on this issue reveals these worries
are overblown: Most Shi’ite groups have worked peacefully within
the system for political change and reject Iran as a political patron.
(See pp. 131–144.)
Arab opinion on Iran is often split between publics and their
regimes. Arab regimes fear Iran’s nuclear aspirations but are cognizant
that its nuclear program is largely endorsed by their Arab publics as a
critique of Western double standards and interference. Consequently,
they are reticent about appearing too hostile to the prospect of an Iranian
bomb lest their publics perceive this as tacit support for a U.S.
strike. As a result, some Arab officials are exploiting Sunni Arab fears
of Shi’ite ascendancy and sectarian strife in their media outlets to curry
favor for what is essentially a classic balance-of-power strategy against
Iran. Regarding a U.S. attack against Iran, both official and popular
opinion is largely opposed, voicing deep concern about Iran’s retaliatory
options and insufficient U.S. protection. These divergent and
ambivalent views suggest caution for U.S. policymakers who would
take Arab hostility toward Iran as de facto support for a U.S. attack or
U.S. efforts to contain Iran through a Cold War–style bloc of Sunni
states. (See pp. 144–151.)
Recommendations: Toward a New U.S. Policy Paradigm
Over the years, the United States has attempted a variety of approaches
to address the Iranian challenge. To date, none has succeeded in
making Iran less menacing to U.S. interests or more compliant with
United Nations Security Council resolutions. The existing policy of
creating a Cold War–like containment regime against Iran does not
take into account features of the regional geopolitics and Iranian strategic
culture discussed in this report. Although more appealing, policies
relying only on bilateral engagement and/or hopes for some sort of
grand bargain are equally unrealistic. And efforts to foment internal
unrest and to play one faction off another within Iran are also likely
to backfire because of limited U.S. understanding of Iran’s complex political landscape and the regime’s ability to manipulate such interference
to its advantage. (See pp. 163–174.)
Given these shortcomings, we propose a different approach that
involves a series of unilateral de-escalation measures by Washington
and continued muscular multilateral efforts targeted at Iranian behaviors
that are at odds with international norms (e.g., the nuclear issue
and links to terrorism). Rather than a broad U.S.-based containment
strategy, we suggest leveraging international pressure while unilaterally
de-escalating U.S. rhetoric and policy toward Iran (essentially, reversing
the traditional good cop/bad cop roles).2 Keeping the pressure components
of this approach multilateral (including support from Russia
and China) is critical because it helps deprive the Iranian leadership of
the ability to deflect domestic critique by focusing discontent solely on
the United States and the United Kingdom or other European Union
powers. At the same time, the United States should avoid unilateral
actions that would escalate conflict with Iran, as these are unlikely to
work and are likely to exacerbate tensions significantly. Although no
panacea, multilateral pressure—when combined with less-hostile U.S.
rhetoric and policy—may prove more effective than past policies, at
least in terms of the more limited aims regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
That said, the likelihood of sustained support for this approach
by Russia and China remains questionable. The specific components of
this approach are as follows (see pp. 175–179):
Continue strengthening international sanctions and other
financial pressures targeted on the nuclear issue, but avoid unilateral
punitive measures that are not likely to generate broad
support. Secondary sanctions are particularly counterproductive
in maintaining European and international support for nuclearrelated
sanctions in the United Nations.
Pursue bilateral dialogues related to areas of common interest,
such as instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, narcotics trafficking,
natural disaster relief, refugees, and other humanitarian crises.
The United States should identify and exploit areas where genuine
collaboration can be productive and profitable, without harboring
expectations for broader diplomatic breakthroughs. These morelimited
efforts should not be trivialized by over-hyping them.
News of good works will spread on its own. That said, the United
States should temper any expectation that engagement will produce
dramatic results. However, even limited engagement efforts
may improve the prospects for a broader dialogue and normalization
process should political conditions improve.
Issue unambiguous statements about U.S. interests and intentions
in the region, particularly regarding Iraq. These must be
simple and easily understood, and the United States must stick
to them long enough for them to be taken seriously. The United
States should reinforce the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq
by clearly stating that it has no long-term interest in occupying
Iraq or establishing a permanent military presence there. At the
same time, the United States has a right to maintain a military
presence in the region and to use force to protect its interests and
those of its allies against threats from both state and non-state
actors. These statements would underscore that U.S. military postures
are for defensive purposes and to ensure stability, not to
develop U.S. bases for launching attacks on regional neighbors
Engage in efforts to build a multilateral regional security framework
that is simultaneously inclusive of Iran and sensitive to
the needs of the United States’ Arab friends and allies. The
Arab states remember the exceedingly close U.S.-Iranian relations
during the Pahlavi era and thus would be ambivalent at best
about closer ties between Tehran and Washington. Yet despite
these difficulties, the United States needs to aggressively pursue a
broad-based multilateral regional security framework that would
include Iran alongside Washington’s traditional Arab allies, as well
as key international players like the European Union, Russia, and
China. Such a structure would not be based on a specific threat
(such as a collective security organization like NATO), but would provide an open-ended security forum where regional states could
discuss and address a range of regional challenges (starting with
more-consensual issues such as narcotics trafficking, responses
to natural disasters, maritime security, and economic and energy
development) and engage in military confidence-building measures.
The model for such a forum could be a cooperative security
organization like the Organisation for Security and Co-operation
in Europe, where mutual threat perceptions are aired and conflict
resolution measures pursued.
Although an inclusive multilateral security structure in the Persian
Gulf region would take time to build, it would contribute more to
regional stability over the long run than would continuing to rely solely
on competitive, balance-of-power strategies designed to isolate Iran.
Such narrow strategies are more likely to encourage, even reify, Iranian
hegemonic aspirations than remove them. Furthermore, a U.S.-led
“containment” of Iran is also unlikely to be sustainable among Persian
Gulf states that desire to maintain cordial relations with Iran, if not
active political and economic engagement.
** Source: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2009/RAND_MG781.sum.pdf
Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Potential. A Joint Threat Assessment by U.S. and Russian Technical Experts
EastWest Institute ***
5. Conclusions and Recommendations
The Iranian Programs
5.1 Four questions were posed in paragraph 1.1. On the
basis of the analysis in this report, they can be answered as
follows, subject to the caveats that have been registered.
5.2 What nuclear capability does Iran have today and
what might it have in the future? Iran has been engaged
in a serious nuclear program and has made steady
progress. By February 2009 it had produced 1,010 kg
of low-enriched uranium hexafl uoride. That would be
enough for one bomb if it were converted to HEU. If Iran
were to decide now to make use of this LEU to produce
weapon-grade uranium, it would have to remove IAEA
control and monitoring of the low-enriched uranium,
and of the enrichment process, at the FEP. It would then
be a matter of time — in the range of one to three years,
according to the estimate given in chapter 2 — before
a nuclear explosive device could be produced. It might
take another fi ve years to produce a nuclear warhead
that could be delivered by existing and future Iranian
5.3 What ballistic missile capability does Iran have today
and what might it have in the future?
a. Iran has tested at least four liquid-propellant
missiles. The Shahab-3 could deliver a payload
of 1,000 kg to a distance of 1,100 km. In February
2009 Iran used the Safir-2 SLV to launch a satellite
into earth orbit. That launch did not mark a fundamental
technological breakthrough since the
Safir first stage is based on the Shahab-3 missile.
It did, however, demonstrate that Iran was making
advances in the development of rocket technology.
- b. Iran could develop in perhaps six to eight years
a ballistic missile capable of delivering a 1,000 kg
nuclear warhead to a range of 2,000 km. The
nuclear-missile threat that the European-based
components of the U.S. missile defense system are
designed to defend against (IRBMs and ICBMs)
will not materialize for some years, and probably
not in the next decade, unless Iran receives substantial
help from outside.
- c. In April 2009 North Korea launched the Unha-2 three-stage missile with the ostensible aim of putting a satellite into earth orbit. In that respect
the test was a failure, but the first and second
stages appear to have worked successfully, marking
a signifi cant advance in North Korea’s mastery of
rocket technology. If North Korea were to transfer
this technology to Iran, it could help Iran, especially
by increasing its potential to build missiles with
a much greater lift capability than the Shahab-3.
5.4 If Europe had a missile defense system, could that
system protect Europe? The analysis given here shows
that the missile defense system proposed for deployment
in Europe has serious weaknesses and would not be able to
provide a dependable defense against IRBMs and ICBMs
launched from Iran, if such a threat were to emerge.
5.5 Does Europe face a military threat from Iran, and
if so what is the nature of that threat? This report has
focused on the technical rather than the political aspects
of a possible threat. It has not assumed that Iran
is planning to attack (or to acquire the capability to
attack) Europe with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles;
it is indeed diffi cult to imagine the circumstances in
which Iran would do so. Iran does not at present possess
that capability, nor is there specifi c evidence that it
is seeking to acquire it. The nuclear missile threat from
Iran to Europe is thus not imminent. At some point
in the future Iran could acquire the capability to attack
Europe with nuclear-armed IRBMs. It is not clear,
however that the deployment of IRBMs would enhance
Iran’s security. Large, visible, ground-launched missiles
would be both provocative and vulnerable; mobile or
silo-launched missiles would be more secure but would
take much longer to develop, and their use would elicit
a massive response.
5.6 The estimates of the likely timescales for Iranian
programs could be upset if Iran were to receive substantial
help from outside for its nuclear and missile
programs. Close cooperation between the United States
and Russia — and with other countries — would be one
of the most eff ective ways of mitigating this danger.
5.7 U.S.-Russian relations are no longer the axis on
which world politics turns, as they were during the
Cold War, but they are still of great importance. These
are the two states with the largest number of nuclear
weapons and they therefore play a key role in maintaining
strategic stability and also exercise signifi cant
infl uence on regional stability. After the collapse of the
Soviet Union, Russia and the United States began to
construct their relations on a new basis, free from the
ideological confrontation of the Cold War. Leaders on
both sides spoke of their desire to develop friendly and
mutually advantageous relations in a spirit of partnership.
The two countries have been cooperating in the
fi ght against international terrorism and against the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Both are
taking part in the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean
nuclear program, and they are working together in the
eff ort to resolve regional confl icts in the Middle East
5.8 In recent years, however, relations between the two
countries have taken a turn for the worse, casting doubt
on the prospects for future cooperation. They reached
a low point in August 2008 when the war in Georgia
led to sharp rhetoric and a reassessment of relations on
both sides. The contentious nature of the missile defense
issue both refl ects the mistrust that has entered the relationship
and in turn exacerbates that mistrust.
5.9 There is now the possibility of an improvement in
U.S.-Russian relations, of a move away from the mutual
disillusionment and recrimination of recent years. On
April 1, 2009, President Medvedev and President Obama
signed a joint statement in which they resolved “to work
together to strengthen strategic stability, international
security, and jointly meet contemporary global challenges,
while also addressing disagreements openly and
honestly in a spirit of mutual respect and acknowledgement
of each other’s perspective.”
5.10 This report has concluded that there is at present
no IRBM/ICBM threat from Iran and that such a threat,
even if it were to emerge, is not imminent. Moreover, if
such a threat were forthcoming, the proposed European
missile defenses would not provide a dependable defense
against it. It does not make sense, therefore, to proceed
with deployment of the European missile defense system
in Poland and the Czech Republic.
5.11 The more immediate danger comes from the
military and political consequences that would follow
if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons and the capacity
to deliver them against targets in the Middle East.
The urgent task, therefore, is for Russia and the United
States (and other states) to work closely together to seek,
by diplomatic and political means, a resolution of the
crisis surrounding the Iranian nuclear program. Such
cooperation could be helped if the issue of European
missile defense were set aside.
5.12 If deployment of the European missile defense system
were suspended, the United States and Russia could
explore in a serious fashion the possibility of cooperation
in ballistic missile defense, an issue also mentioned in
the joint statement of the two presidents. A wide range
of options could be explored, including the possibility
of boost-phase missile defense. (See the Technical
Addendum for a detailed discussion.)
5.13 There is scope for U.S.-Russian cooperation in the
a. Ensuring that the sanctions the Security Council
has imposed on Iran are implemented strictly;
- b. Strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime,
and in particular the IAEA’s capacity to
implement safeguards and enhance its verification
- c. Strengthening the MTCR in order to restrict further
the export of sensitive missile technologies;
- d. Persuading Iran, by diplomatic means, to adopt
measures that will reassure its neighbors (and the
international community more generally) that its
nuclear program is directed solely toward peaceful
- e. Exploring the responses the two countries could
take if Iran should expel the IAEA inspectors; and
studying other paths by which Iran might seek to
“break out” as a nuclear power and devising appropriate
- f. Investigating seriously the possibility of cooperation
in missile defense.
5.14 The issues dealt with in this report — the potential
nuclear-missile challenge from Iran and the role of missile
defense in meeting that challenge — have in the past
served to worsen U.S.-Russian relations. The analysis
given in this paper points to a different possibility: that
cooperation between the two countries could help to
resolve these important and urgent issues and could
play a role in changing the U.S.-Russian relationship
for the better.
*** Source: http://docs.ewi.info/JTA.pdf