USA/Iran — Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2010 — Iran may be capa­ble of strik­ing the Unit­ed States with an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile by 2015, accord­ing to a Defense Depart­ment report sub­mit­ted to Con­gress yes­ter­day.
The unclas­si­fied analy­sis out­lines near-term and longer-term threats posed by Iran, includ­ing Iran’s nuclear ambi­tions and its desire to extend its influ­ence in the Mid­dle East. “With suf­fi­cient for­eign assis­tance,” the report states, “Iran could prob­a­bly devel­op and test an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile capa­ble of reach­ing the Unit­ed States by 2015.” The report states that cen­tral to Iran’s “deter­rent strat­e­gy” is its pur­suit of a nuclear pro­gram that could poten­tial­ly move it clos­er to devel­op­ing a nuclear weapon. Iran con­tends that its nuclear ambi­tions are for peace­ful pur­pos­es.

“Iran’s nuclear pro­gram and its will­ing­ness to keep open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of devel­op­ing nuclear weapons is a cen­tral part of its deter­rent strat­e­gy,” the report says.

The department’s release of the analy­sis comes on the heels of the Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit and tes­ti­mo­ny by the Pentagon’s top pol­i­cy chief, who last week said the U.S. approach to Iran remains cen­tered on pre­vent­ing it from obtain­ing nuclear weapons and on coun­ter­ing Iran’s influ­ence in the Mid­dle East.

The Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit, which con­vened lead­ers of more than 40 coun­tries here last week, fol­lowed the unveil­ing of the Nuclear Pos­ture Review, a Defense Depart­ment-led effort that rep­re­sents the first over­ar­ch­ing look at U.S. nuclear strat­e­gy since the end of the Cold War.

While the Nuclear Pos­ture Review nar­rows the num­ber of sce­nar­ios in which the Unit­ed States would exe­cute a nuclear strike, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said this week that “all options are on the table” for coun­tries such as North Korea and Iran.

Michele Flournoy, under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee last week that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to view chal­lenges posed by Iran as a top nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cern.

“First, we are work­ing to pre­vent Iran from acquir­ing nuclear weapons,” she told sen­a­tors, delin­eat­ing the chal­lenges posed by Iran. “Sec­ond, we are coun­ter­ing Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties and sup­port for ter­ror­ism and extrem­ists in the Mid­dle East and around the world.”

The writ­ten report to Con­gress cit­ed Iran’s influ­ence in the Mid­dle East — includ­ing its prox­ies Hezbol­lah and Hamas, in Lebanon and Gaza, respec­tive­ly — and its reach into Iraq and Afghanistan. Mil­i­tary and defense offi­cials have char­ac­ter­ized such behav­ior as “desta­bi­liz­ing.”

Flournoy last week said a vital com­po­nent of U.S. strat­e­gy to counter Iran­ian influ­ence is to strength­en the secu­ri­ty capac­i­ties of vul­ner­a­ble states in the region, not­ing that both Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both have trav­eled to the region in recent months.

“It’s a vital avenue for coun­ter­ing desta­bi­liz­ing Iran­ian activ­i­ties, and we believe we are see­ing some results,” Flournoy said of efforts to build part­ner capac­i­ty. “In Iraq and Lebanon, for instance, our efforts to devel­op the capac­i­ty of secu­ri­ty forces and improve gov­er­nance have helped to weak­en Iran’s prox­ies.”

The Oba­ma administration’s diplo­mat­ic over­tures have helped to shore up the inter­na­tion­al con­sen­sus need­ed to put pres­sure on Iran, Flournoy said, refer­ring to eco­nom­ic and oth­er sanc­tions the Unit­ed States and its allies are seek­ing to place on Iran.

“Mean­while, our efforts in [the Defense Depart­ment] have helped to shore up the abil­i­ty of our region­al part­ners to defend them­selves and to counter desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties from Iran,” she said. “We have also reas­sured our part­ners that the U.S. is ful­ly com­mit­ted to their secu­ri­ty.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)