Irianian nuke dealDevelopment Is Key To Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Intentions

By Col. Tom Snodgrass (Ret.), Right Side News 

Obama: “I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch”  

According to Obama,

In July, we reached a comprehensive plan of action that meets our objectives.  Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon.  And while Iran, like any party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.

Let me repeat:  The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent.  The ban on weapons-related research is permanent.

However, regardless how “permanent” Obama claims his deal’s (his word) ban on Iran’s nuclear weapons-related research is, there is a conspicuous inconsistency in the details of the deal that exposes the mendacity of Obama’s assertion. That conspicuous inconsistency is that the agreement permits Iran to continue to develop ICBMs. Furthermore, after eight years (or sooner depending on the Iranians’ fulfillment of the terms of the deal) Obama’s deal completely lifts all sanctions prohibiting Iran from participating in international commerce buying and selling ICBM technology.

How ICBM Development Is Directly Related To The Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program

The interrelationship between ICBM development and nuclear weapons development was succinctly and clearly explained in Frontpage Magazine reporting on expert testimony to the congress:

Development of these powerful missiles falls neatly alongside nuclear capabilities. As David A. Cooper of the Naval War College testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “Nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs typically have been developed hand in glove, to the extent that no country that has not aspired to possess nuclear weapons has ever opted to sustain an indigenous intermediate- or longer-range ballistic missile program.” In other words, countries only develop missiles of this type when they plan to make them nuclear. Cooper continued on to say that if the Iranians decline to cease their ICBM program, “with no plausible answer for why they would still need these capabilities if not to deliver nuclear weapons, then it raises troubling questions about their ultimate goals.”

Put simply, ICBMs are enormously expensive weapons systems to research, design, develop, test, and maintain. Moreover, the military utility of the ICBMs being developed by Iran is doubtful because these missiles are not of sufficient accuracy to target pinpoint objectives (it’s taken the U.S. and Russia 50+ years to perfect anything approaching such accuracy). Therefore, these missiles would not be decisive if armed with conventional, chemical, or biological warheads.

Other pertinent factors affecting the targeting of those types of non-nuclear warheads are that ICBMs cannot carry enough conventional explosives (throw weight payload) to compensate for accuracy constraints, while the effectiveness of chemical or biological warheads depend greatly on target area weather conditions such as wind direction, precipitation, and temperature, as well as the persistency (length of contamination) and dispersion of the chemical or biological agent used.

In other words, the devastation potential of conventional, chemical, or biological warheads delivered by ICBM can be limited and uncertain due to many variables that are beyond the control of the force launching such an attack. Consequently, the cost-benefit ratio of conventional, chemical, or biological warheads delivered by ICBM is too low to justify the tremendous costs entailed in the ICBM weapons system.

The Status Of Iran’s ICBM Development Program

Iran has invested at least $1 billion in its missile development and testing programs since 2000, according to “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment.” The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has assessed that Iran is capable of flight-testing an ICBM in 2015. The Sajjil-2 surface-to-surface missiles, solid-fuel systems, are considered mostly likely to be developed into the nuclear delivery vehicles because they are more compact, require less time to prepare for launching, and can be deployed on mobile launchers making them less vulnerable to preemptive attack.

According to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, Brig. Gen. Abdollah Araghi, the Sajjil-2 will allow Iran to “target any place that threatens Iran.” Since the U.S. is commonly referred to in Iran as “the Great Satan” that evokes both the Iranian mullah clerical leadership and hundreds of thousands of the Iranian man-in-the-street population to cry “Death to America,” it is reasonable to infer that Gen. Araghi is referring to the U.S. in his targeting threat. (“Sijjil” is Persian for the “baked clay” that was used to bombard enemies of the people of Mecca and to defeat these enemies of Mecca.)

The Iranian Space Program

The Iranian Space Program serves several purposes. First it provides a plausible cover for developing bigger and ever more powerful rocket booster engines. Second, space launch can solve the ICBM accuracy shortcoming by making available an orbital weapon. Such an orbital weapon would most probably be in the form of a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS).

FOBS originally was developed as part of the Soviet ICBM program in the 1960s. FOBS is based on the concept where, after launch, a nuclear weapon-carrying vehicle would go into a low earth orbit and would then de-orbit for an attack. By going into orbit the weapon has no range limit, and by launching in a southerly direction over the South Pole, the orbital weapon can approach the U.S. from the direction that is opposite the northerly orientation of the U.S. early warning systems. The FOBS concept is well-understood in the world community of weapons designers, and furthermore, the Iranians have already purchased weapons technology in the past from the Russian successors of the Soviet ICBM developers. So, an Iranian FOBS is a real possibility. As of February 2, 2015, when Iran launched its most recent satellite, Iran has successfully put four satellites into low earth orbit since 2008.

What makes FOBS such a potentially devastating weapon is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that is generated when a nuclear device is detonated. Exploding an EMP nuclear device over the central U.S., Iran could cause catastrophic damage to the nation’s electricity grid. The result of such damage would be long-term power outages and the deaths of 9 out of 10 Americans “through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.”

Clearly, FOBS solves Iran’s ICBM range, accuracy, and payload throw weight problems when a nuclear device is wedded to a low orbital satellite vehicle and mounted on a ballistic missile booster with sufficient power to put the nuclear device-carrying satellite vehicle into low orbit. Something the Iranians have already accomplished four times so far by successfully launching four low earth orbit satellites. 


 When Obama makes the assertion — “The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent” – he is a fool, or a liar, but most probably both. Acquiring ICBMs without nuclear warheads is irrational. While Obama appears to be irrational in his policies, the Iranian mullahs are anything but irrational. They are men “on a mission from Allah.” Their mission is to prepare the way for the return of the Shia 12th Imam Mahdi – their Islamic “savior of mankind” who they believe will appear to usher in the end of the world. Nuclear weapons are an integral component of their end times scenario. 

The Iranians mullahs’ single-minded dedication to acquire nuclear weapons is demonstrated by their continuing development of ICBMs, which are not effective without nuclear warheads.

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Col. Thomas Snodgrass, USAF (retired) served over a year in Peshawar, Pakistan, working with Pakistani military intelligence. During his year in Vietnam he daily scheduled 130 U.S. Army and Air Force intelligence collection aircraft. In his final overseas tour he was the U.S. Air Attaché behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland. In total, Col. Snodgrass was variously an Intelligence Officer or an International Politico-Military Affairs Officer (military diplomat) serving duty tours in seven foreign countries, as well as teaching military history and strategy at the Air War College, US Air Force Academy, and USAF Special Operations School during a thirty-year military career. Additionally, he was awarded an Air Force scholarship to get a history master’s degree in revolutionary insurgent warfare at the University of Texas, as well as being granted a year’s educational sabbatical to teach and to write about international relations as an Air Force Research Associate in the graduate school at the Center for Advanced International Studies, University of Miami, Florida. Following the Air Force, Col. Snodgrass was an adjunct professor of military history for ten years at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona.