The international community’s primary anti-proliferation efforts vis-à-vis Iran’s ongoing weapons programs have focused on Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons and fissile material. Indeed so great is the fear of an Iranian bomb that Israel and the United States have maintain a state of readiness for a first strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. There is however evidence to suggest that the primary Iranian strategic deterrent –and hence US and Israeli strategic priority- is not a clandestine nuclear program, but rather the Islamic Republic’s conventional surface-to-surface (SSM) and anti-ship cruise missile arsenals.
This study will seek to 1) catalogue known Iranian SSM and anti-ship cruise missile systems 2) identify the strategic threat, retaliatory scenarios, and primacy of fixed and mobile conventional missile launching systems over weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and 3) determine what a conventional SSM centered Iranian defense strategy means for Israeli and US tactical first strike capabilities and strategic options. In conclusion this study will attempt to establish that the international community’s narrow focus on Iranian WMD development is in part misguided, having overlooked the strategic priority of Iran’s growing conventional missile arsenal.