Iranian Threat to Israel Is Real, Even if It Serves Netanyahu’s Interests

Before the new police investigation against his advisers totally took over the media agenda, Benjamin Netanyahu had an interesting security-related announcement. He stated at a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin that Iran had recently placed long-range missiles in Yemen that threatened to reach Israel.

Every new piece of security-related information these days should be taken with a measure of skepticism. The various interests behind the revelation of Iranian threats are pretty clear. Many of the senior officials discussing the grave regional situation have a fairly transparent goal, a unity government. Everyone has his reasons, and the more serious the security situation, the greater the chance of establishing such a government.

For Netanyahu, it could be a way to remain in power after all, despite his second consecutive electoral failure. For Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, it’s an opportunity, which he seems to prefer, to share responsibility for leading the country (something his partners in the party’s “cockpit” still vigorously oppose). For Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, it’s the solution that will put the political system back on track – and perhaps hasten the beginning of the end of the Netanyahu era. And the chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, desperately needs and end to the political paralysis in order to advance his multi-year plan for the Israeli military, part of which is meant to respond to the new threats posed by Iran and the various groups it inspires.

Iran’s long-range Shahab-3 missile being launched from an undisclosed location, 2008.AP

Still, the new information about Yemen is significant and important. It represents the other half of the picture of threats that until now had not been revealed to the public. Military intelligence officials warned last month of the possibility that Iran would try to attack Israel from Western Iraq by launching cruise missiles or drones from bases it established in the area with the assistance of Shi’ite militias that it operates. It seems that the second scenario relates to Yemen. Tehran provided Houthi rebels there with drones and Scud missiles, which it has used in the last few years to attack airfields and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Now, according to Netanyahu’s speech, long-range ballistic missiles have been added to the Iranian arsenal in Yemen.

Because the distance between northern Yemen and Eilat, the southernmost point in Israel, is over 1,800 kilometers, it is possibly the type known as Khorramshahr, derived from the North Korean Musudan missile. The original version has a range of about 4,000 kilometers. Reports abroad indicated that the Iranians had increased the weight of the warhead by some 500 kilograms to between 1,500 and 2,000 kilograms while reducing the range to 2,000 kilometers. In the game between range and weight of a warhead, the Iranians are capable of striking numerous targets in southern Israel from Yemen.