In a newly-declassified Pentagon report about Iran’s efforts to improve its missile systems, Defense Department analysts came to a conclusion that Iran’s military posturing is aimed at extracting diplomatic concessions from its adversaries — and hinted that their gains might pose problems for military attacks against the Islamic Republic.
The report found that Iran “boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems by improving accuracy and developing new submunition payloads,” according to Bloomberg News. Iran has short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that are, according to the report, now effective over a wider area, though not to the range of intercontinental missiles.
A declassified version of the report, signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in June, was released in full (PDF) by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). On the FAS blog, Steven Aftergood noted the conclusion by the analysts about Iran’s posture. The report said:
Iran’s military doctrine remains designed to slow an invasion; target its adversaries’ economic, political, and military interests; and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.
The report also noted the focus — and apparent progress — of Iran’s capabilities to defend itself through unconventional means:
Iran’s unconventional forces are trained according to its asymmetric warfare doctrine and would present a formidable force while defending Iranian territory.
In the Bloomberg item, Congressional Research Service analyst Kenneth Katzman said the mention of Iran’s capabilities served as a warning to advocates of military action against Iran:
Katzman said the language about Iran possessing a “formidable force defending Iranian territory” seemed to be a “signal to advocates of military action against Iran, suggesting any action on Iranian soil will carry risk.”
Though the report focused on Iran’s ballistic missile capability, it also, according to Bloomberg, “summarizes what’s been said publicly about the status of Iran’s nuclear program.”
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis.