Dubai: A US intelligence assessment
concludes that Iran has received advanced North Korean
missiles capable of targeting Western European capitals and
giving the Islamic Republic`s arsenal a significantly farther
reach than previously disclosed.
The suspected shipment _ mentioned among the flood of
classified State Department memos obtained by the online
whistle-blower WikiLeaks _ could also give Iran an important
boost toward joining the powerful group of nations with
intercontinental ballistic missiles, defense experts said
The US suspicions carry still another jolt: reinforcing
international fears about the possibility of closer nuclear
cooperation in the future between Iran and North Korean
engineers, who have already staged atomic tests.
US officials presented the claim in a meeting with top
Russian security officials in late 2009 but did not offer
conclusive evidence of the transfer of at least 19 so-called
BM-25 missiles, according to the confidential Feb. 24 memo
posted by WikiLeaks.
It also noted that ``Russia does not think the BM-25
exists`` and questioned why there have been no Iranian tests
of the missile, believed to be based on a Russian design that
could be fitted with nuclear warheads.
Still, the US-Russia meeting found ample common ground
over concerns that North Korea appears to be actively engaged
with Iran in exporting weapons systems and possible nuclear
expertise. A UN report accusing North Korea of exporting
banned nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria and
Myanmar was sent to the Security Council earlier this month.
``This just confirms a lot of the rumors and reports
about the capabilities of the North Koreans and gives more
credence to those who support a defense shield against Iran,``
said Theodore Karasik, a regional security expert at the
Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.
Independent defense analysts say the possible
acquisition of longer-range missiles fits into Iran`s
step-by-step claims of being able to reach farther from its
borders. A year ago, Iran said it successfully test-fired an
upgraded version of its Sajjil-2 missile with a reported range
of 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel, US bases in
the Gulf and parts of southeastern Europe well within reach.
The range of the BM-25s parent design _ the
submarine-launched Russian R-27 _ is about double: 2,400 miles
(4,000 kilometers), the memo said. That covers Western Europe,
Moscow and much of Central Asia.
Such a missile could give Iran the ability to carry much
larger warheads and give technicians the ability to study and
copy an advanced propulsion and guidance systems _ all key
elements if Iran ever seeks to develop a nuclear arms program
as some Western leaders fear. Iran, however, says it only
seeks reactors for energy production and medical research.