Israel's missile defense bluff

Iron Dome has become Israel's first line of defense against missile attacks from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Hezbollah-run areas of southern Lebanon, and any other potential combatants. On 1 April 2014, however, the Iron Dome system near Israel's southernmost city of Eilat launched due to a false alarm. The system failure led to a number of Iranian officials ridiculing Israel and publicly questioning whether the Iron Dome system is more propaganda than real. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Ramezan Sharif, for example, told Fars News that not only is Iron Dome unable to provide security for the Israeli "occupiers," but the system itself also poses a serious threat to the Zionists. Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee, sounded the same theme in his statements, also to the hardline, semi-official Fars News Agency. Such hyperbole is nothing new for Hosseini: he also claimed that the United States "kidnapped" missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Such attention to Iron Dome, even if in response to a misfire, suggests that the Iranians, despite their denials, do understand the challenge the Israeli system poses to Iran's ability to strike at a state it has declared its chief enemy. At the same time, however, should the Iranian military convince itself that the Iron Dome system is not as technically capable as claimed, it could lead to Iranian overconfidence and perhaps a temptation to launch a first strike in pursuit of Iranian hardliners' ideological imperatives. Regardless, such rhetoric does not indicate that the IRGC or significant factions within parliament have undertaken the same commitment to reconcile with the outside world as some Iranian diplomats involved in nuclear negotiations claim Iran has made. At the very least, whatever might happen in U.S.-Iran negotiations, there does not appear to be any change on the horizon to the Islamic Republic's deep-seated hostility to Israel.

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