With the recent missile launchings yesterday and today, Iran is making their belligerence clear. The signs are pointing in two directions, appeasement or confrontation. The liberal punditocracy claim these moves are strictly defensive, a response to moves by the United States and Israel. In the minds of these observers Iran only reacts to the actions of its adversaries. Iran possesses no agency of its own.
This is a major mistake. The United States has enemies. Enemies who will do whatever is in their power to make us suffer defeat. When these enemies speak, when they articulate their policy preferences and political goals, we should listen very intently. When they threaten us and our allies, we should take those threats very seriously.
Military action should always be the last option. But it must remain an option and we are rapidly approaching a point where it may be the only option. As the Israelis realized in 1981 with Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility, destroying Iran’s nuclear sites before they reach the capacity to produce weapons is the only choice unless the world wants to see a nuclear armed Iran.
Iranian government officials claim the Shahab-3 missile has a range of 1,250 miles and are equipped with “special capabilities”. The officials did not specify what they meant by this oblique statement but chemical or biological warheads would not be out of the question. The tests also included launches from sea, torpedoes and surface-to-surface missiles.
On the positive side, the range of the Shahab-3 is not confirmed by any reliable outside source. Described by military experts as a modified North Korean Nodong missile and by some as a “glorified Scud” the tests may not have gone as well as the Iranian government reported:
A Ynet inquiry has revealed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have doctored at least one photo of a missile test it conducted in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday and “added” at least one missile launching that never took place.
The photos were sent to the news agencies by the Revolutionary Guards and were published by media outlets worldwide, including Israel. In a videotape of the Iranian missile testing, which was shot from a slightly different angle, three missiles can be seen launched, while a fourth remains on the ground.
However, in the still photo all four missiles are seen fired into the air almost simultaneously. Some of the details in the images of the launched missiles are suspiciously similar; the tail of the fourth seems to be an exact copy of the missile on the far left.
Several internet sites also claimed that the missile photos were manipulated by the Iranians in an attempt to cover up possible technical difficulties that arose during the test.
Surprisingly, even the PRC has expressed dismay at the tests. Xinhua reports:
China was concerned over Iran’s missile tests and hoped relevant parties would take measures “conducive” to the situation in the Middle East, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“We are concerned with what is going on in the region. As the situation in the Middle East is complicated and sensitive, we hope all parties concerned will take measures that are conducive to safeguarding peace and stability in the region,” said ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao at a regular press conference.
As tensions escalate in the region, the French energy company Total has announced it will not invest in Iran. The IHT notes:
“The conditions are not present for investing in Iran today,” said Total spokeswoman Lisa Wiler. “We hope that the political relations will improve so that we can invest.”
“Today we would be taking too much political risk to invest in Iran because people will say, ‘Total will do anything for money,’” CEO Christophe de Margerie was quoted by the Financial Times as saying Thursday.
Neither the company spokeswoman nor the CEO would say whether Total was pulling out of South Pars or overall investment in Iran.
“Iran remains a priority country in the strategy of Total,” Wiler said. “We are still in contact” with Iranian partners, she said.
De Margerie expressed frustration at U.S. pressure on European energy investors in the countries.
Readers will recall France was one of the main opponents of the liberation of Iraq due to French investments in the energy sector. Whether the West has learned from the past, that appeasement does not work with dictatorial regimes, remains to be seen. I hope the U.S. and Israel retain the resolve for action, even if the rest of the democratic world is sticking their heads in the sand.