Iran’s missile programme and US-Israeli agendas

No American administration can help but take into account the fact that Iran’s missiles have become dangerously accurate.
Friday 15/01/2021
Houthi ballistic missiles on display during an exhibition of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles an at undisclosed location in Yemen. (AFP)
Houthi ballistic missiles on display during an exhibition of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles an at undisclosed location in Yemen. (AFP)

It has become obvious that Israel, which launches strikes almost every day on sites in Syria and monitors Lebanese territory from the air and  sea at day and night, has succeeded in making Iran’s ballistic missiles what may be the only common denominator between the administrations of US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.

In the end, Biden’s administration made the right call days before its term was to begin.

It linked reviving the Iran nuclear agreement, signed in the summer of 2015 under then President Barack Obama, to the conditions the agreement ignored and which led Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump, to tear it apart in 2018 and describe it as “the worst agreement of its kind.”

At the forefront of these conditions is the link between the Iranian nuclear deal and Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and aggressive behaviour in the region.

From this standpoint, the words of Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan represent a very significant turning point.

A few days ago, Sullivan said that the Biden administration is not against returning to the nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the Group of Five plus one (the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany), “but the missiles should be on the table.”

Such talk is significant because it indicates that the prospect of war with Iran no longer hinges on the Trump administration alone.

It is possible that nothing will change under Biden, who has aligned himself with Trump in this regard. The war option will hence remain on the table because of the ballistic missiles programme, which will perhaps draw now more attention than Iran’s nuclear programme.

The Biden administration certainly cannot publicly acknowledge that the Trump administration was right on Iran.

In fact, there was a working group around Trump which knows Iran and its modern history well, starting with its capture of US Embassy diplomats in Tehran for 444 days that began in November 1979.

This team was able to build a coherent policy against Iran that led to the Iran nuclear agreement being torn up and more sanctions being imposed on the Tehran regime

These sanctions have had a major impact on the country. This is what the regime’s leaders refuse to acknowledge, just as they refuse to admit that they will not be able to negotiate with the new US administration from a position of strength, regardless of what they pretend and whatever they do to confirm that they are in Lebanon and Gaza and that the missiles in those places that are aimed at Israel came from Iran and nowhere else.

Houthi officials look at surface-to-air missiles on display during an exhibition in an unidentified location of Yemen. (Reuters)
Houthi officials look at surface-to-air missiles on display during an exhibition in an unidentified location of Yemen. (Reuters)

Whatever Iran does, it will not be able to keep hold of Iraq, which it considers the biggest prize.

No matter how much it resorts to armed parades by the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the sectarian militia group loyal to Tehran, Iraq will remain Iraq and Iran will remain Iran.

Whatever Iran does in Lebanon to show that the latter is in its orbit and that Qassem Soleimani, the late leader of the Quds Force, is present in every Shia neighborhood, it remains that Iran is rejected by most Lebanese people, who know that Tehran can destroy, but cannot build.

There was some reason for the new US administration to reconsider its calculations and rein in its Iranian enthusiasm for an unconditional return to the nuclear agreement.

This includes Sullivan, a key figure who is known to favour a return to the Iran nuclear deal.

In this context, we must consider two very important developments in this direction.

The first was the launch of missiles and rockets via drones at Saudi Aramco oil installations in Abqaiq in September 2019.

Iran’s hits were accurate and revealed the new advanced features of its ballistic missiles that managed to disrupt a significant part of Saudi oil production for a few days.

This occurred again about two weeks ago. The Houthis, who are nothing but an Iranian tool, targeted Aden airport.

The shells fell a few metres away from a civilian plane that was transporting members of the new Yemeni government to the capital of southern Yemen.

Twenty-six people were killed and dozens wounded in a deliberate missile strike originating from an area near Taiz, the capital of the central Yemeni region, part of which is under Houthis control.

These missiles covered a distance of about 150km and fell a few metres away from their target.

No American administration can help but take into account the fact that Iran’s missiles have become dangerously accurate.

It cannot ignore that Israel’s security is at stake, which is a real American concern.

The Iranian missiles fired at Saudi Arabia’s eastern region could have been launched from Iraq and not Iran. But it is now a fact that some deep changes have occurred and the Biden administration cannot just stand by and watch.

It is not possible for the United States to let Iran play the role of the dominant power in the Gulf and the Middle East, relying on missiles and on the sectarian militias that it finances.

The policy pursued by the Trump administration was widely supported by both Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress.

What will Israel do? That is the big question. What it has succeeded in doing so far is making Iran’s missiles a common denominator or a bridge between two administrations that are not united on much else.

Moreover, if the Trump administration underestimated Iran’s missiles fired by the Houthis  from Yemen towards Saudi territory, it is likely that this issue will be of interest to Washington in the next few months. It will view the development of Iranian missiles as an issue that is just as, if not more, important than Iran’s nuclear programme.

More than that, talk has surfaced about the prospect of Yemeni territories being used to launch rockets towards Israel and that these missiles could reach the port of Eilat on the Red Sea.