These Are the Weapons Iran Would Use in a War Against America
Warrior Maven Video Analysis Above: Impact of the new B61-12
by [Zachary Keck](https://www.scout.com/User/Zachary%20Keck "Zachary Keck")
History gives us the key. Zachary Keck Most outside analysts are far more skeptical that the U.S. strategic bombing campaign had...
No country in the post–Cold War era has sought to challenge the United States as much as Iran. From the Middle East to Central Asia to Latin America, Tehran has never missed an opportunity to antagonize the U.S. and limit its influence.
(This first appeared in 2015.)
This is an inherently risky strategy. Not only has the U.S. encircled Iran with military bases on all sides, but America’s military spending in recent years has been twice the size of Iran’s entire GDP. In any conventional military conflict, Iran wouldn’t stand a chance against the U.S. armed forces.
To compensate, Iran [pursues a deterrent-based](http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/11207/irans-fading-deterrent-could-increase-the-lure-of-going-nuclear "pursues a deterrent-based")  military doctrine premised on three types of capabilities: an expansive ballistic missile arsenal, asymmetric naval warfare (particularly the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz), and ties to non-state militant groups. Although many weapon systems go into implementing this doctrine, five capabilities are particularly crucial:
Iran's Fading Deterrent Could Increase the Lure of Going Nuclear
Recent events have underscored that the three pillars of Iran&rsquo;s long-standing deterrent-based military doctrine have become wasting assets. This is likely to influence the regime&rsquo;s continued debate over whether to cross the nuclear threshold. As Iranian policymakers lose confidence in their deterrent capabilities, the rationale for a nuclear arsenal will become increasingly apparent.&nbsp;&nbsp;
(Recommended: [5 U.S. Weapons of War Iran Should Fear](http://nationalinterest.org/feature/5-us-weapons-war-iran-should-fear-12087 "5 U.S. Weapons of War Iran Should Fear") )
5 U.S. Weapons of War Iran Should Fear
If relations with Tehran were to turn sour, what means would be at Washington's disposal?
The most blunt instrument in Iran’s military doctrine is its large inventory of ballistic missiles. Of these, the Shahab family of ballistic missiles, which are based on North Korean designs, are the best known.
The Sejjil-1 (and its successor, the Sejjil-2) should be the most feared, however. The Sejjil-1 is a two-stage, medium range surface-to-surface ballistic missile that Iran first tested in 2008. Unlike the Shahab missiles, the Sejjil-1 missile is solid-fueled, greatly reducing its launch time while enhancing its mobility.
In Congressional testimony in November 2009, then U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates [said that the](http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2009-05-20-voa49-68644517/408007.html "said that the")  “The [Sejjil] missile will have a range of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 kilometers.” This is consistent with the ranges given by Iranian officials like Defense Minister Brigadier General Mustafa Mohammad. At this range, the Sejjil-1 can deliver a 750 kg payload to Israel and even parts of southeastern Europe. It is widely believed that this could someday be a nuclear payload.
Pentagon Confirms Iran Missile Test, Calls It 'Consistent' with Concerns
Spokesman says test tends to add credence to US concerns about potential Iranian threat to its neighbors
(Recommended: [5 Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear](http://nationalinterest.org/feature/five-chinese-weapons-war-america-should-fear-10388 "5 Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear"))
Five Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear
China's economy is on the rise—and so is its military. Should Washington be concerned?
The Sejjil-2 was first tested in 2009 and is likely still under development. [According to Global Security](http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/sajjil.htm "According to Global Security") , “The Sejjil-2 has an demonstrated range capability of 2,510 kilometers with its 650 kilogram tri-conic warhead re-entry vehicle design. It can also carry a 1,000 kilogram warhead to 2,000 kilometers.” The Sejjil-2’s biggest advancement is in accuracy, something Iranian ballistic missiles have traditionally lacked. Iranian defense officials [have said that](http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2009%2F05%2F21%2Fworld%2Fmiddleeast%2F21iran.html&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHu_Hnuz_H1rfZjX78G1fjq-qPPDQ "have said that")  compared with the Sejjil-1, the Sejjil-2 is “equipped with a new navigation system as well as precise and sophisticated sensors.”
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
The Sajjil [also known as "Sejjil" or "Sejil"] is a two-stage, primary solid-propellant with liquid propellant attitude control systems, surface-to-surface missile produced by Iran . The word is taken from a verse of Koran and it’s about a foreign army attacking Kaaba ( Mecca ). The story says that small birds appeared in the sky caring small pebbles of "Baked Clay" or "Lethal Stone" (SAJJIL) and dropped them on the enemy, killing them. Sajjil means stone mixed with mud. In Arabic, 'jim' is equivalent to 'ghaf' in Persian. Singue is hence spelled Sinj. The word Sajjil is then an Arabisation of a Persian term.
Ghadir-class midget submarines
Perhaps Iran’s greatest deterrent threat is its ability to threaten oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz, which roughly 20 percent of global oil supplies must transverse on their way to markets. Indeed, [according to some estimates](http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/The-U.S.-has-Spent-8-Trillion-Protecting-the-Straits-of-Hormuz.html "according to some estimates"), the U.S. has spent some $8 trillion protecting the Strait of the Hormuz since 1976.
The U.S. has Spent $8 Trillion Protecting the Straits of Hormuz | OilPrice.com
a map of how oil travels the world on the seas and where the vulnerable choke points exist. The Straits of Hormuz is the busiest passage for oil cargoes, and the US Navy has spent $8 trillion over
Submarines would be invaluable for Iran were it to try and close the Strait of Hormuz. As the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) [has explained](http://www.understandingwar.org/reference/fact-sheet-irans-submarine-force "has explained") , “In the confined and shallow waters of the Arabian Gulf, the ability to deploy submarines effectively threatens surface vessels that are channeled into narrow Sea Lines of Communication.” These narrow SLOCs force military and commercial ships to travel predictable routes, making them easy prey for submarines.
Fact Sheet: Iran&#039;s Submarine Force
This fact sheet provides a brief analysis of the Iranian submarine fleet and its potential future capabilities.
(Recommended: [5 Russian Weapons of War America Should Fear](http://nationalinterest.org/feature/5-russian-weapons-war-america-should-fear-12016 "5 Russian Weapons of War America Should Fear"))
5 Russian Weapons of War America Should Fear
Moscow's military machine is certainly evolving at a time of tensions with the West. Washington might want to make note of these five lethal weapon systems.
Iran has a number of different [types of submarines](http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/iran-submarine-capabilities/ "types of submarines") , but its growing fleet of 150-ton Ghadir-class (Qadir/Khadir) midget submarines would be especially deadly in any conflict. A variant of the North Korean Yugo and Sango-class submarines, the small size and acoustic signature of the Ghadir-class make them especially hard to detect and track. Each sub packs two 533-mm tubes for firing torpedoes, is capable of laying mines and, according to Iranian media outlets, could be used to transport and insert special forces into enemy territory.
Iran Submarine Capabilities | NTI
NTI published six related policy papers that together provide an alternative vision and roadmap for America’s nuclear policy and posture.
(Recommended: [5 Indian Weapons of War China Should Fear](http://nationalinterest.org/feature/five-indian-weapons-war-china-should-fear-10714 "5 Indian Weapons of War China Should Fear") )
Five Indian Weapons of War China Should Fear
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The subs are not of particularly high quality, but, as is often the case with Iranian naval capabilities, quantity matters. Iran has at least twenty Ghadir-class subs compared to less than a handful of its other types of submarines. These numbers are crucial for how Iran would use the Ghadir-class subs in any conflict. As Chris Harmer, an expert on Iran’s military at the ISW, [explained to me](http://thediplomat.com/2013/09/eyeing-gulf-shipping-irans-mass-producing-submarines/ "explained to me ") in 2013, “The quietest submarine in the world is one that rests on a sandy seabed. That is how the Iranians would use the Ghadir—get it out of port, sink to the bottom of the shallow Persian Gulf, rest on the sandy bottom, and wait for a target to come to it.”
Eyeing Gulf Shipping, Iran’s Mass Producing Submarines
An Iranian admiral says Tehran is mass producing light submarines, possibly for the Strait of Hormuz.
Khalij-e Fars Missile
The Khalij-e Fars anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is another valuable component of Iran’s asymmetric naval capabilities.
Often called Iran’s “[carrier-killer](http://thediplomat.com/2013/05/meet-irans-carrier-killer-the-khalij-fars/ "carrier-killer") ,” the Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) is a is a solid-fuel, supersonic Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) with a range of 300 km when carrying a 650-kg payload. It is based on the Fateh-110, a single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile that Iran first tested in 2002 (The Fateh-100 is based off of the China-made DF-11A).
Meet Iran’s “Carrier Killer”: The Khalij Fars
While China is well know for its anti-ship weapons, other nations are also investing in such technology.
[Iranian media outlets](http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921214000867 "Iranian media outlets")  have described the Khalij-e Fars as the “most advanced and most important missile of the IRGC Navy” and said, “the distinctive feature of the missile lies in its supersonic speed and trajectory. While other missiles mostly traverse at subsonic speeds and in cruise style, the Persian Gulf moves vertically after launch, traverses at supersonic speeds, finds the target through a smart program, locks on the target and hit it.”
“The guidance systems of (the missiles delivered to the IRGC) today enjoy the capability of striking the targets with full precision and they have a margin of error below 5 meters,” Dehqan said on the sidelines of a ceremony held to mark the mass-delivery of different ballistic missiles, including Qadr H, Qiam, Fateh 110 and Khalij-e Fars (Persian Gulf) missiles, as well as the Mersad air defense system to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base.
The Khalij-e Fars was first tested in 2011 and has been tested regularly ever since. Iran claimed that the second test of the ASBM in July 2012 hit a moving vessel with a 30-meter precision rate. The following year, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Aerospace Division, [claimed that Iran had increased the missile’s precision from 30 meters to 8.5 meters.](http://thediplomat.com/2013/06/irans-carrier-killer-missile-improves-accuracy/ "claimed that Iran had increased the missile’s precision from 30 meters to 8.5 meters.") 
An IRGC official says Iran’s Khalij-e Fars anti-ship ballistic missile’s precision is now 8.5 meters, up from 30 meters.
Many foreign experts [have been skeptical](http://news.usni.org/2012/08/15/iran-claims-carrier-killer-missile-experts-skeptical "have been skeptical ") of these claims. Chris Harmer, the Iran military expert at ISW, told me at the time of Hajizadeh’s announcement that “We do not know, in open source, the exact performance specifications of Iranian missiles. This applies equally to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles, of both the ballistic and cruise missile varieties.”
Iran Claims 'Carrier-Killer' Missile; Experts Skeptical - USNI News
As the United States continues to help Israel improve its missile defense shield due to growing fears of possible attack by Syria and Iran, claims by Iran that it has developed its own ‘carrier-killer’ that can evade U.S. Navy defense systems to hit ships in the Persian Gulf are drawing skepticism from naval experts. As …
Iran’s intentions with its “carrier-killer” are more transparent; Fars News Agency, which is close to the IRGC, bluntly stated the missile is “designed to destroy targets and hostile forces at sea.” Deputy Defense Minister General Majid Bokayee [similarly boasted](http://english2.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9107161838 "similarly boasted ") that “we witnessed the US naval fleets' retreat in the Persian Gulf after the first test on the missile.”
At the time, the decision to send IRGC officials to Lebanon in the early 1980s to help foment resistance to Israel’s occupation reeked of revolutionary fanaticism. Not only had Iran not traditionally exercised influence in Lebanon, but it was locked in a life and death struggle with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Domestically, the country was also still reeling from the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.
With the benefit of hindsight, the decision to infiltrate Lebanon seems like pure strategic genius, as Hezbollah has been the gift that just keeps giving for Iran. Time and again Hezbollah has proven to be the most versatile and usable “weapon of war” in Iran’s arsenal. And it isn’t even close.
Oftentimes, Iran has used Hezbollah to carry out traditional terrorist attacks like the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed eighty-five people and injured scores of others. Indeed, Hezbollah’s greatest value to Iran may be its operational reach. Whereas Tehran’s Qud Forces have often struggled to execute attacks outside of the Middle East, Hezbollah has shown no such limitations. For example, in early 2012, Iranian operatives working for the Qud Forces [tried to attack Israeli targets](http://thediplomat.com/2012/10/iran-strikes-back/?allpages=yes "tried to attack Israeli targets")  in places like India, Georgia, Thailand and Kenya in retaliation for Israel’s suspected assassinations of Iranian scientists. In each case, the Iranian operatives botched the attacks, sometimes embarrassing themselves in the process (Iran’s alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States was also a comical failure.) Following the Quds Forces’ botched attempts, Iran turned to Hezbollah, which [successfully attacked](http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/18/us-bulgaria-hezbollah-idUSBRE96H0XI20130718 " successfully attacked")  Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.
From cyberstrikes, assassinations, and drone surveillance, Iran seems to copying Western tactics. Retaliation, not escalation, is Tehran's goal.
Bulgaria says clear signs Hezbollah behind Burgas bombing
Bulgaria has no doubts that the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah was behind a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver at the Black Sea city of Burgas exactly a year ago, the interior minister said on Thursday.
Hezbollah’s utility to Iran has increasingly gone beyond traditional terrorist attacks. Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran [used Hezbollah](http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/world/middleeast/05iran.html?pagewanted=all "used Hezbollah") to train Iraqi Shi’a militant groups. There have [also been reports](http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/15/us-yemen-houthis-iran-insight-idUSKBN0JT17A20141215 "also been reports")  that Hezbollah militants have helped train Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have overrun most of the capital city of Sanaa in recent weeks. Most notably, Hezbollah has been indispensable in propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria since 2011.
Hezbollah Trains Iraqis in Iran, Officials Say
A U.S. official said the account of Hezbollah’s role was provided by militia members who were captured in Iraq.
Iranian support seen crucial for Yemen's Houthis
Iran has supplied weapons, money and training to the Shi'ite Houthi militia that seized Yemen's capital in September, as Tehran steps up its regional power struggle with Saudi Arabia, Yemeni and Iranian officials say.
Following Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Tehran this week, Russia [announced that](http://news.yahoo.com/russia-may-send-300-missile-system-iran-ria-141917297.html "announced that")  it will “probably” sell Iran the S-300.
Russia may send S-300 missile system to Iran - media
By Thomas Grove MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia might deliver a long-overdue S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, honoring a contract that was canceled in 2010 following strong pressure from the West, Iranian and Russian media said on Tuesday. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is visiting Tehran
If so, it is an ominous development for the United States and its allies. In fact, Washington has long lobbied Russia not to sell Iran the advanced air defense system, and in 2010, Moscow had cancelled the initial contract to sell Iran the S-300. The Obama administration has often cited the thwarted sale as evidence that Iran policy is working.
And for good reason, as denying this system to Iran is a major win for the United States. The S-300 is a “highly capable, long-range surface-to-air missile” system that was first developed by the Soviet Union in 1979, but has been upgraded numerous times since. [According to the BBC](http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-22652131 "According to the BBC") , a S-300PMU-2 battalion—which would likely be the variant Iran would buy—consists of six launchers along with command-and-control and long-range radar detection vehicles.
Profile: Russia's S-300 missile system
A profile of Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries, which are reportedly to be supplied to the Syrian military.
Each launcher carries six Russian-made 48N6E missiles with ranges up to 150 km and altitudes between 27-30 km. The long-range surveillance trucks can track targets from 300 km away. The S-300 can simultaneously track up to six targets and guide twelve missiles.
Along with guarding high-value targets, Iran could deploy S-300 systems along its coastline to assist in an anti-access/area-denial campaign against the United States.
This first appeared in early 2015.