DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
April 5, 2004, Monday
SOURCE: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 2, 2004, p. 9
by Ilan Berman, head of the strategic policy sector of the US Council
for foreign policy
U.S. EXPERT ILAN BERMAN ON THREATS COMING FROM IRAN
This year Iran has become the focus of international attention in
connection with its fully-fledged nuclear program and convincing
signs, which show that Iran has ballistic missiles. In addition,
Teheran has become very active in the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea
and the Caucasus where the Islamic Republic of Iran is realizing a
multilayer strategy aimed at changing the current situation in the
region in its favor.
Judging from official statements, Iran finished tests of the Shahab-3
ballistic missile (the range of fire is 1,300 kilometers) in June
2003. That successful test confirmed Iran’s ability to hit targets on
the territory of Washington’s allies and US bases in the Persian
Gulf. Iran has added the new missile to arsenals of Pasdaran
revolutionary guards. As is known, Pasdaran is the main channel of
contacts with Hezbollah and HAMAS, and Iran’s achievements in the
missile sector may help terrorists realize their plans.
The opposition stated that Iran’s official missile program is a
curtain of a secret program, which includes the creation of the
Shahab-5 missile (the range of fire is 4,000 kilometers) and the
Kovsar intercontinental ballistic missile.
A new strategic doctrine took root in Iran after the defeat of Saddam
Hussein’s regime. The Iranian foreign minister stated that the new
national security doctrine was passed to counter “new threats to
Iran’s national security, including foreign aggression, wars,
incidents on the border, espionage, sabotage, regional crises,
terrorism and discrimination linked with production of weapons of
mass destruction”. In reality this means that Iran will strengthen
its military potential and presence in two vitally important zones –
the Persian Gulf and the Caucasus.
Weapons, which Iran has purchased over the past years, have let
Teheran gain control over important sea routes in the Persian Gulf
and oil deliveries in the region. Iran has activated diplomatic
effort in the region aimed at creating a security system, which would
not depend on the US.
The Iranian foreign minister visited several countries located in the
Caucasus, seeking to reach an agreement with Georgia, Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey to create a joint security system as an
alternative to cooperation with exterior forces. The reaction to that
proposal was rather cold, and Iran decided to use other methods. Iran
started a full-scale exercise in the north-western region (near
Azerbaijan) in October 2003. Iran concentrated troops on the border
with Azerbaijan – that was a demonstration of its military might
aimed at discouraging Azerbaijan from expanding its cooperation with
the US. In addition, Iran strengthened its military potential in the
Caspian Sea as a reaction to military relations of Kazakhstan and
Azerbaijan with Washington.
The Iranian leadership thinks that Teheran must play a very important
role on the international arena. The defeat of the Taliban movement
and Saddam Hussein’s regime prompted some Iranian high-ranking
officials that Iran is destined to become “the most powerful
geopolitical center” in the post-Saddam Middle East.