Pentagon Appears to Downgrade Iran Strategic Missile Threat


July 11, 2014, 10:17 a.m.

The U.S. De­fense De­part­ment ap­pears to have re­duced the level of threat it be­lieves Ir­an’s bal­list­ic-mis­sile work dir­ectly poses to the United States.

The Pentagon’s most re­cent an­nu­al re­port to Con­gress on Ir­an’s mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­it­ies does not touch on the po­ten­tial for Ir­an to test-launch an in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile in 2015. Rather, the re­port’s ex­ec­ut­ive sum­mary makes note of Ir­an’s work on space rock­ets, which has more in­dir­ect ap­plic­a­tions for ICBM de­vel­op­ment, In­side De­fense re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

“Ir­an has pub­licly stated it may launch a space vehicle by 2015 that could be cap­able of in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile ranges if con­figured as a bal­list­ic mis­sile,” reads the re­port, which was com­pleted in Janu­ary but only now re­por­ted on.

The de­part­ment in its pre­vi­ous re­port to Con­gress, com­pleted in 2013, offered a much more alarm­ing as­sess­ment, say­ing that Ir­an as early as 2015 could be ready to test-fire a bal­list­ic mis­sile that could strike the United States.

Greg Thiel­mann, a seni­or fel­low at the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­ation, told the news­let­ter he saw im­port­ant dif­fer­ences between the 2013 and 2014 as­sess­ments.

“I would re­gard that as a sig­ni­fic­ant change of lan­guage, mean­ing that the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­munity is los­ing con­fid­ence in their earli­er pre­dic­tion of 2015 which has been very heav­ily quoted, of course, by friends of mis­sile de­fense and oth­ers wish­ing to pump up the Ir­a­ni­an threat,” said Thiel­mann, a former staffer on the Sen­ate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

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