Israel Intercepts Missile Shipment from Iran as U.S. Shortchanges Missile Defense

COMMENTARY Missile Defense

Israel Intercepts Missile Shipment from Iran as U.S. Shortchanges Missile Defense

Mar 14th, 2014 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

Last week, Iran was once again caught red-handed shipping arms, including advanced rockets, to Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists.

The Israeli navy intercepted the Klos-C, a Panamanian-flagged ship, in the Red Sea on March 5. It was slated to offload a clandestine shipment of mortar shells, bullets, and surface-to-surface missiles in Sudan that Israeli officials said was to be smuggled through Egypt to Gaza.

The intercepted arms included 40 M-302 rockets made in Syria that have a range of up to 100 miles. Such rockets, which have a heavier payload and a much greater range than the homemade rockets frequently launched by Gaza-based terrorists, would put most of Israel at risk.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group—the likely intended recipient of the Iranian arms shipment—launched scores of rockets at Israel but failed to kill any Israelis. If this group or Hamas were to receive more lethal rockets from Iran, they might be emboldened to launch more dangerous attacks that could trigger crises similar to the 2008 and 2012 Gaza conflicts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the lack of a stronger international reaction to the Klos-C affair, which he stressed shows the “true face of Iran”: “There are those in the international community who…want to continue nurturing the illusion that Iran has changed its course.”

Netanyahu slammed European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for “handshakes and smiles” with Iranian leaders during her visit to Tehran earlier this week. But his comments could also apply to the Obama Administration’s efforts to negotiate a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Is it really realistic to expect Iran to comply with any commitments it makes at the negotiations when it persistently flouts international norms, supports terrorism, and continues to export arms in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions?

Last week, Iran’s defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, announced that Iran had acquired missiles with multiple warheads and developed the Qiam medium-range missile, which was specifically designed to target U.S. military bases in the Middle East.

Yet the Obama Administration continues to shortchange missile defense programs. The Administration’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal would reduce joint U.S.–Israeli missile defense programs by almost $200 million.

The Pentagon has assessed that Iran may develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015, but the Administration continues to drag its feet on developing more robust missile defenses.

The Klos-C affair should be a wake-up call for the Obama Administration. Iran has not moderated its hostile behavior under President Hassan Rouhani but has merely become more adept at public relations.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal