Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ulrich Laderner on the Iranian Bomb-an American Perspective

There's an interesting interview with Ulrich Laderner in Der Spiegel that is, for the most part, a sober assessment of the interface between the Iranian nuke program, the Iranian missile program, and the state of politics in Iran.

It's an interesting piece, complete with-now make a note of this-a picture of the Shahab-3 missile which has a range of between 1,300 and 1,900 km and a circular error probability of either several thousand meters or less than 200 meters, depending on who you believe. CEP is the size of the ten ring on your target.

The Iranians allege that they have developed an inertial navigation system for the Shahab 3 as well-all of which puts it in the realm of the Thor we developed back in the 1950s here in the U.S.. Of course, the Shahab has to be pretty much an open book technologically speaking, because before Colonel Ghaddafi got a case of common sense he was interested enough to be entertaining some Iranians with Shahab technology to sell. There's nothing cutting edge in reinventing a 1956 Rambler in camouflage paint-particularly a 1956 Rambler developed in North Korea and built in Iranian factories.

The Shahab 3 is an outgrowth of the North Korean No Dong (gotta like that name) project. The No Dong borrowed heavily from Soviet SCUD technology, which itself borrowed heavily from the 1944 vintage German V2.

The advisability of depending on the Hermit Kingdom for critical parts and technology is a dicey proposition, but hey-all you gotta do is score one hit somewhere near Tel Aviv, right? Doesn't matter that you'll kill a fair number of your coreligionists, either.

Mr. Laderner is interested primarily in Iran's efforts to develop a bomb and he says that the Russians are holding the only viable card for defusing the growing threat of Iranian nukes and missiles getting bolted together. In that he may be right.

Of course, he also details an extremely turbulent political situation in Iran which may produce some thinking people who do not see national suicide and nuclear holocaust as a life affirming strategy.

At present, he sees the Iranian military industrial saber rattling as a way of getting support for an unpopular regime by telling the man in the street it's time to draw straws and choose up sides-them or us. That may be true as well-Ahmadinejad's crew would not be the first regime that manufactured an external threat to shift peoples' attention away from the real problem-perhaps the Iranians learned that from the North Koreans as well .

If I'm right about all this, you can bet your last shekel that the Israelis are not sitting still on the knowledge. And I'd guess that satellite space over Iran is getting very crowded these days.

Laderner then makes a very puzzling reference to us here in the states. He says that the Russian option is the only one that is viable, and that "Sooner or later the US will have to face reality."

Now. Here's the commentary part. First, refer to the discussion about the launch vehicle and its range and circular error probability.

Next. Ask yourself who's within range. Would that be everyone in the middle east that Iran doesn't like? Of course, and that is not limited to Jews, who Ahmadinejad is using as his whipping boy for the moment. The Iranians are no fans of Arabs generally and the Saudi royal house in particular. It also includes Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, and a number of other smaller states up Armenia way.

That geography does not include the U.S. It does include some of our friends in the region. And it's worth noting that the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction is just as valid for small states as it is for large ones.

So, maybe, just maybe, it is the Europeans who will have to face reality, because this mess is right on their doorstep, and they sat on their asses and watched it develop. Perhaps they should have considered this when they were selling Mercedes Benz transport vehicles to the Iranians to parade their Shahabs around.


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