Weighing the Threat from North Korea, Iran

Gen. Robert Kehler, head of US Strategic Command, said Tuesday the United States’ 30 ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California provide enough capability to defend against a “limited” ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran. However, he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States “is not in the most optimum posture today” to defend against an Iranian attack. “I think, you’re being a little too cautious, or not cautious enough here, when you say ‘limited attack,’ when our intelligence has shown us that Iran is going to have the capability and a delivery system by 2015,” said SASC Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to Kehler. Also on March 12, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “Iran continues to develop technical expertise in a number of areas, including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles, from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable weapons.” Clapper also said he is “very concerned” with the “very belligerent” rhetoric coming from North Korea. “The rhetoric, while it is propaganda-laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent,” he said. (Kehler’s written testimony) (Clapper’s prepared statement)