WITHIN TWO YEARS, IRAN WILL HAVE MISSILES CAPABLE OF HITTING ISRAEL

By Yoav Limor

SENIOR IDF OFFICIALS: "THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE FOR THE WORSE IN OUR STRATEGIC SITUATION." IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO ARM THEM WITH CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WARHEADS.

Recently, Iran has stepped up its efforts to develop long-range missiles which could hit Israel, and the security establishment estimates that within two years, these missiles will be operational. According to the most senior military sources, Iran has recently been making increased efforts to develop ballistic missiles with ranges of over 1,150 kilometers, which could hit every point in the State of Israel. The sources estimate that at the current pace of development, the Iranian missiles project will be completed within two years; they will then become operational. It is within Iran's capability to arm these missiles with non-conventional -- chemical or biological -- weapons.

The fact that Iran will have long-range missiles already within two years, is a significant change in Israel's strategic situation. Up until now, Israel's defense establishment had estimated that Iran would have the capability of hitting Israel with long-range missiles only at the beginning of the next century; yet given the pace of development in Iran, the senior sources point out that the missile construction program will be completed within a very short time. Thus, according to them, there will be a significant change in the balance of forces between Israel and Iran.

In the past, Iran's programs were primarily based upon long-range, ground-to-ground Nodong missiles from North Korea. However, according to the senior sources, it has recently become known that Iran is taking a new path and is producing its own ground-to-ground missiles. Production is based upon the North Korean Nodong missiles, whose operational range the Iranians are trying to expand to over 1,150 kilometers.

The Iranians are using Russian assistance regarding knowledge, technology and manpower in their long-range missile program. According to the sources, the Russians are helping Iran not only for economic reasons, but also out of a future strategic vision primarily based upon a restoration of Russian hegemony in the region.

During the past year, Israel has invested great resources in attempting to halt the Russian aid to Iran in the field of long-range missile development. Within this framework, many conversations have taken place between the heads of Israel's governments -- the late Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Benjamin Netanyahu -- and between Russian President Boris Yeltsin. However, the senior military sources note that all of the efforts have failed and that Russia is continuing to actively assist Iran.


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