Iran, not Israel, faces an existential threat, according to a top US analyst who is considered one of the world’s leading scholars on the Iranian nuclear issue.
In a research paper published last week, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that, in preparation for a nuclear Iran, Israel has been working in recent years to extend the range of its missiles, and that it now poses a real threat to all of the Islamic Republic’s major population centers.
“Israel now poses a more serious existential threat to Iran than Iran can pose to Israel in the near term,” he wrote.
Cordesman, a former national security aide to Senator John McCain, said Iran is likely within the range of Israeli missiles carrying thermonuclear warheads, which employ hydrogen fission and are far more powerful than standard atomic warheads. He attributed the information to “a variety of media and think tank reports.”
“Israel long ago extended the range of its nuclear-armed land-based missiles, probably now targets Iran with thermonuclear weapons, and is examining options for sea launched cruise missiles,” he wrote.
According to the CSIS report, entitled US-Iranian competition: The Gulf Military Balance II, “A mix of several air and ground bursts in an Israeli thermonuclear or high fission yield attack on five key cities – Tehran (capital) 7.19 million; Mashhad 2.592 million; Esfahan 1.704 million; Karaj 1.531 million; Tabriz 1.459 million – would probably destroy Iran as a nation in anything like its current form.”
According to Cordesman, Iran will not have the ability to threaten Israel with a long-range nuclear warhead for several years. Today, the Islamic Republic can attack Israel with small bombs from the sea, or with long-range non-nuclear missiles, he noted.
“It seems likely that Israel can already deliver an ‘existential’ nuclear strike on Iran, and will have far more capability to damage Iran than Iran is likely to have against Israel for the next decade,” Cordesman wrote.
Israel has never admitted to maintaining a nuclear arsenal.
Iran says that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and has no military component, a claim that Israel and Western powers reject.