By Sonny Ogulewe

The Islamic Republic of Iran on October 10 launched its homemade intercontinental ballistic missile (IBM) code named “the Emad”. The Emad, according to Iran’s Defence Minister, Hosseni Dehghan, “is able to strike targets with a high level of precision and completely destroy them.” The purpose of this latest acquisition, Iranian officials say, is “to greatly increase Iran’s strategic deterrence capability.”
The United States Head of Missile Defence Programme, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, had warned in 2007 that the gradual improvement in the range of the Iranian ballistic missile system was of grave concern in the Middle East and Europe. This is even made worse by Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari of the Iranian military, who was reported to have boasted last year that “the range of our missile covers all of Israel today, which means the fall of the Zionist regime, which will certainly come soon.”
The recent statements credited to the Iranian Spiritual Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khomeni, also reiterated Iran’s deleterious commitments towards the State of Israel and Teheran’s tacit support for extremist groups in Palestinian and other enemies of Israel. Which further highlights the danger Iran’s new military strength portends.
The launch of Emad is the latest in the steady incremental military capability of Iran in an effort to utterly skew or alter the balance of power in the Middle East to its advantage. Notably, in September 2007, Iran tested its Shabab -3, which has a range of 810 miles. In May 2009, it again launched its Sejil (Ashura) with a range of 1, 200 miles. According the Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a report published in December 2012, “Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and is expanding the scale, reach and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload.”
A closer look at the Iranian military capability as at August 2013 will reveal the fact Iran is heavily pursuing an arms race that is capable of threatening the peace and security of the Middle East. As at this period, Iran had combined forces as follows: Infantry 520,000 Active, 350 Reserve; Armour -1,620 tanks; 1,400 APCs; Airforce-320 Planes; 570 combat helicopters; Navy 256 Warships and 14 Submarines. The combined effect of this military strength added to the Emad, which an Israeli missile expert, Uzi Rubin, observed, “represents a major leap in terms of accuracy and it has an advanced guidance and control system in its nose which means that the Emad can accurately hit any target with probability of miss near zero,” is that the balance of power in the Middle East has been gravely altered.
Though Iranian officials, as reported in the Reuters of October 11, 2015, claimed, “its leadership and armed forces are determined to increase power and this is to promote peace and stability in the region; there is no intention of aggression or threats in the action.” But international reaction or perception of this launch is entirely different from their claim. The United States, France, Britain and Germany viewed it as “a possible violation of the nuclear deal signed under the UN mandate… or UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which stipulates that Iran cannot engage in any activities related to ballistic missiles.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nathanyahu at the 2015 United Nations General Assembly warned the United Nations about the futility of the nuclear deal signed with Iran or any form of rapprochement that removes sanctions hitherto placed on Iran. He lamented what he described as Iranian intransigence and penchant for sponsoring terrorism against the State of Israel. The prime minister gave an up- to- date statistics of recent arms shipment to Hamas from Iran to buttress his argument.
Ironically, the launch of Emad took place few days after what has been described in certain quarters as Natanyahu’s controversial speech. In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on October 1, Nathanyahu warned, “If the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time…
“The most urgent challenge facing the UN is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
The Jewish Newsletter, 2015 re-echoed the sentiments in Israel and in the Middle East, warning, “Those who argue that the world can live with a nuclear Iran ignore the likelihood that a nuclear arms race is likely to ensue in the Middle East, which will exponentially increase the danger to the region and beyond.” It noted that the cost of stopping Iran’s drive for a bomb must be balanced with the benefit of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapon.
Notably, Iran may not have fully developed nuclear war heads but its penchant for violating UN Security Council Resolutions on arms acquisition is a pointer to the fact that Iran could as well develop nuclear capability and utterly ignore the consequences if the world continues to treat Iran with kid’s cloves. Israeli officials believe that if “Iran succeeds in getting away with the ballistic programme, as presently being vigorously pursued, which poses a threat in the region, it will also create a potential of arms race, as Arab States see the need to obtain weapons to deter the Iranians.”
Iran’s weapons expansion programme has been predictable over the years, but the world body has been reluctant to act on the information available to it regarding this. For instance, it was reported in The Guardian of London of 4 January 2006, that “the intelligence assessment from July 2005 showed that Iran was aggressively trying to obtain  the expertise, training and equipment for developing a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe.” This intelligence report was not utilised or the world refused to act promptly and today the reality of a potential arms race in the Middle East stares humanity in the face.
The United States had also in September 2007 observed that “the intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran’s short and medium range ballistic missiles such as Shabab -3;  is developing more rapidly than previously projected … this poses an increased and more immediate threat to US forces on the European continent, as well as US allies.” It also alerted the world that “Iran was cooperating with North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
Also the G8 Foreign Ministers at their 98 meeting in April 2013 expressed “deep concern regarding Iran’s continuing nuclear and ballistic missile activities in violation of numerous UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors Resolutions.”  These reports were curiously dismissed by Russia whose Centre for Strategic Nuclear Forces in March 2009 insisted that “Iran will not be able to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles in the near future.” The rest is history.
The launch of Emad has made whatever was the perceived threat real. Going by Iran’s history of belligerence, vitriolic attack on the State of Israel, and hateful foreign policy thrust, to contemplate that it has as the dominant power in the Middle East is a signal that other countries within the regions have the obligation to review their strategic defence policies in line with the latest developments. Again, the fear of Iran’s misuse of its new military capability is given credibility by the fact that Iran is known to espouse and “export extreme views and again is known to patronise terrorist organisations globally.”
Experts have expressed the view that Iran’s steady progress in military capability puts the world on edge because this adventure is not for the fun of it or for its own protection, but it poses grave danger to others. President Barack Obama aptly captured the global fears about Iran’s arms ambitions when he said, “Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organisations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much severe…and will lead to a free-for-all in the Middle East, (this) is something that would be dangerous to the world.”
Israel, expectedly, has warned that Iran’s nuclear capability threatens the entire Middle East. The spectre of nuclear-armed Iran has already spurred nuclear proliferation across the Middle East, which exponentially increases the danger to Israel, going by the fact that Iran is a supporter of most of the world’s significant Islamic terror organisations, including Hamas and Hezbollah. It is doubtful if Iran already has a nuclear capability, but the fact remains that Iran’s steady progress in pursuing weapons with extensive international reach places Israel, particularly, in a very precarious situation.
As it were, the primary first step expected of all the countries within the Middle East is a comprehensive review of their strategic security and defence policies to place them at par with Iran. Since the global community refused to act promptly on the intelligence reports that placed the Middle East in a precarious position of pending arms race, it should be prepared to begin to develop strategies to effectively contain Iran to avoid a massive arms race in the region. This is important considering the implication of having dangerous weapons in the hands of fascist regimes that appear to be the dominant regimes in the region.
What the United Nations is expected to do at this time is to come down heavily on Iran with commensurate sanctions or measures that would prevent further progress in its military capability and serve as a deterrent to others nursing similar programmes within the region or globally. This will help to save the world from a preventable and unnecessary arms race and the risk of possible catastrophe.
On a final note, the UN should address this matter in a timely manner. If no action is taken now, Iran may experiment with arming the missiles with nuclear payload. This will be dangerous to the region and the entire world, ultimately.

Ogulewe, Ph.D., is an international relations expert and policy consultant

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