Regional actors, such as North Korea in Northeast Asia and Iran and Syria in the Middle East, have short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles that threaten U.S. forces, allies, and partners in regions where the United States deploys forces and maintains security relationships. North Korea conducted seven widely publicized ballistic missile launches on July 4–5, 2006. It successfully tested six mobile theater ballistic missiles, demonstrating a capability to target U.S. and allied forces in South Korea and Japan. On July 3–4, 2009, it again exercised its capability to threaten U.S. and allied forces and populations in South Korea and Japan by launching seven ballistic missiles. North Korea has developed an advanced solid-propellant short-range ballistic missile (SRBM). A mobile IRBM is also under development.
Iran also presents a significant regional missile threat. It has developed and acquired ballistic missiles capable of striking deployed forces, allies, and partners in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. It is fielding increased numbers of mobile regional ballistic missiles and has claimed that it has incorporated anti-missile-defense tactics and capabilities into its ballistic missile forces.
Iran has an extensive missile development program and has received support in the past from entities in Russia, China, and North Korea. DIA believes that Iran still depends on outside sources for many of the related dualuse raw materials and components; for example, the Shahab-3 MRBM is based on the North Korean No Dong missile. Iran continues to modify this missile to extend its range and effectiveness. In 2004,
Iran claimed that it tested an improved version of the Shahab-3; subsequent statements by Iranian officials suggest that the improved Shahab-3’s range is up to 2,000 kilometers and that Iran has the ability to mass-produce these missiles. In addition, Iran’s solid-propellant rocket and missile programs are progressing, and Iran has flight-tested a new solid-propellant MRBM with a claimed range of 2,000 kilometers. Iran is also likely working to improve the accuracy of its SRBMs.
Syria also presents a regional threat. It has several hundred SCUD-class and SS-21 SRBMs and may have chemical warheads available for a portion of its SCUD missiles. All of Syria’s missiles are mobile and can reach much of Israel and large portions of Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey from launch sites well within the country.
The commitment of the United States to defend against ballistic missile capabilities from North Korea and Iran stems from the U.S. perception, shared by our allies and partners, that they are threatening. North Korea and Iran have shown contempt for international norms, pursued illicit weapons programs in defiance of the international community, and have been highly provocative in both their actions and statements. They have exploited the capabilities available to them to threaten others.
Their neighbors and the United States may be limited in their actions and pursuit of their interests if they are vulnerable to North Korean or Iranian missiles. Deterrence is a powerful tool, and the United States is seeking to strengthen deterrence against these new challenges. But deterrence by threat of a strong offensive response may not be effective against