The Jerusalem Post (Link) - Yaakov Katz (May 21, 2009)
The Arrow missile defense system successfully tracked the Iranian long-range missile that was test-fired on Wednesday, just days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat.
Iran said the solid-fuel Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface missile - also called the Ashura - had a range of about 2,000 kilometers. It is a new version of the Sajjil missile, which the country said it successfully tested late last year, and has a similar range.
"The firing of the missile should serve as an alarm to Europe and the United States," said one defense official. "This long-range missile is proof that the Iranians are not just a threat to Israel, but to the entire Western world."
After the missile test, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that if Iran managed to produce nuclear weapons, it would "spark an arms race" in the Middle East.
According to Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Brothers Institute in Herzliya, the test launch of the missile could be an indication that the Iranians planned to put the missile into mass production in the near future.
On Monday, The Jerusalem Post reported that Iran planned to manufacture several hundred missile launchers and over 1,000 ballistic missiles over the next six years.
"This is a solid-fuel missile that can be kept in an underground silo and allows the Iranians to fire missile barrages," Inbar explained. In contrast, the liquid-fuel Shihab cannot be kept in underground silos, since it needs to be fueled very close to the launch.
Iranian Defense Minister Mustafa Muhammad Najjar said the Sajjil-2 differed from the Sajjil missile because it "is equipped with a new navigation system, as well as precise and sophisticated sensors," according to Iran's official news agency.
Meanwhile Wednesday, the Rand Corporation published a report entitled "Dangerous But Not Omnipotent," which found Iran to be a less formidable opponent than commonly thought.
The report claimed that Iran's military was poorly maintained and mostly outdated. It also argued that Iran had far less control over Hizbullah and Hamas than was popularly believed.
"The Iranian Air Force has outdated aircraft and is no match for its neighbors, and certainly not for US airpower," the report read. "Teheran's layered and overlapping security structures, while useful for regime survivability, inhibit battlefield performance and reduce its capability to defend against external threats."
The report also said that there was little reason to believe that Iranian military investments would change dramatically over the coming decade due to failing oil production.