IRAN OPENS PANDORA’S BOX WITH NUCLEAR-CAPABLE CRUISE MISSILE TEST
This morning the German newspaper Die Welt disclosed that Iran test-fired its new, domestically produced, nuclear-capable Sumar land-attack cruise missile in addition to its test of a Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) on Sunday. The newspaper reported that it flew some 600 kilometers in its first successful test. The report has not been confirmed by any government.
The Sumar or Soumar nuclear-capable cruise missile is an Iranian copy of the Russian Kh-55 also known as the AS-15 Kent. In 2001 Ukraine sold twelve Kh-55s to Iran in a secret deal only revealed in 2005. The Kh-55 has a range of 2500 kilometers and with extra fuel cells can reach approximately 3000 kilometers. The Kh-55 is air launched and designed to carry a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead at a subsonic speed of mach.75 to its target. The cruise missile flies under 300 feet above the topography making it very hard to detect until it touches down. The advantage in testing a cruise missile is that it is not restricted by the United Nations Security Council Resolution that in 2015 demanded Iran restrain from testing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles for 15 years. Strategically, cruise missiles because of their range and stealth are very effective weapons for decapitation strikes on nuclear-armed opponents. The Iranian Sumar cruise missile with its full payload likely has a range between 2000 and 3000 kilometers meaning, much of North Africa, Western and Central Europe, Russia, China, India and the Middle East are within striking distance.
This begs the question as to just how effective the Iran deal and accompanying United Nations Security Council Resolutions are in restraining Iran. Observers could with some justification ask, if Iran with its apocalyptic views can be deterred? If the answer to that question is no, then it raises the prospect of the most threatened country in the region, Israel, resorting to pre-emption for national survival. In testing a nuclear-capable cruise missile and thumbing its nose at the United States and its new President, Iran may have opened a ‘pandora’s box.’