Missile test: At last, a real threat from Iran


I admit that this sounds perverse, but Iran’s recent ballistic missile test was welcome in one important sense. Let me explain.

Just more than a fortnight into President Donald Trump’s administration, America and the world have been bombarded with all sorts of crises, to the extent that it feels as if two years of history has been packed into two weeks. Relations with Mexico are at their low-est ebb in more than a century. The administration continues to exasperate, most likely intentionally, European heads of state with its on again, off again comments about the long-term health of the European Union and NATO. Trump even boasted of yelling at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the stalwart U.S. ally Australia, over a previous agreement reached with the Obama administration concerning the fate of a handful of refugees.

And then along came Iran with its firing of a ballistic missile on Jan. 29, in open defiance of the nuclear deal it signed with the Obama administration and other Western governments. That was quickly followed by reports that Iran had test-fired a cruise missile, the Sumar, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has a potential range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), meaning that it is well within reach of Israel and the European continent.

If we needed a salutary reminder that some threats should be ranked above others, then the Islamist regime in Tehran provided one. Dismissing American concerns with a cheap swipe at Trump’s “Muslim travel ban”—whatever else it may be, it is not that—Iran de-ployed Defense Minister Hossein Deghan, who also holds the rank of brigadier-general in the terrorist Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), to present the missile activities as a routine defensive measure.

“We have no other aim but to defend our interests and in this path we will neither seek permission nor allow anyone to interfere,” Deghan declared. Given that this is the very same Deghan who revealed, following a March 2015 test of the very same Sumar cruise missile, that the regime’s goal is to boost the precision and destructive power of these weapons, it is reasonable to conclude that defense of Iran’s interests means having the ability to annihilate Iran’s neighbors.

Away from the fervid rhetoric and intellectually insulting spin on all sides that has accompanied Trump’s first steps into the world of governing, Iran represents a marked contrast when it comes to the clarity of the challenge it poses. By any standard, Iran’s regime stands out as a clear and present threat to the Western world. And even as we agonize over what is to become of that world, we need to recognize that the primary goal is to save it. Israel and the conservative Sunni-Arab states may be first in Iran’s firing line, but only a fool would conclude that they are last as well.

In that sense, the Trump administration’s response to the missile test was heartening in one very simple sense: it noticed.

Ben Cohen is senior editor of