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In early 2000, the Central Intelligence Agency was said to have warned that it could no longer exclude the possibility that Iran already has a nuclear weapon. A year earlier, the U.S. intelligence community issued a National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is likely to have within the decade a missile capable of reaching the United States. These developments suggest Iran will remain a source of potential trouble to the United States.

Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is by far the most respected and knowledgeable analyst of Persian Gulf militaries. His volume on Iran's military -- its army, navy, and air force; its doctrine and war-fighting options; its arm industry; its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles – is an encyclopedic survey whose great mass of facts make it an indispensable reference source for those wanting to know what weapons Iran has and how its military could fight. His focus is on traditional military instruments, so he barely mentions terrorism, and he provides no analysis of Iranian support for terrorist groups such as Hizbullah in Lebanon.

He argues that the West has been successful at limiting Iran's arms acquisitions and how militarily vulnerable Iran is, but the book provides more detail than analysis in a presentation that is less than systematic. For example, chapter 11 consists of two pages of analysis and a forty-two page "table" listing reports, many of them from dubious sources, about Iranian weapons of mass destruction.