Amos Harel – Haaretz June 10, 2011
A report by a panel of experts convened by the United Nations reveals that over the past year Iran has stepped up the pace of its efforts to develop long-range missiles.
The report by the panel, which was convened a year ago after the UN Security Council imposed stiffer sanctions against Iran in an effort to halt the Iranian nuclear program, has not been officially released. In a campaign led by the United States, the United Nations has shown concern over Iran’s development of medium- and long-range missiles in addition to the nuclear program itself. Iran’s efforts to develop missiles have therefore been monitored along with Iranian weapons-smuggling operations.
In developing its findings, the UN panel of experts relied on information provided by member nations of the Security Council as well as monitors sent to various countries where unauthorized Iranian activity has been uncovered, plus additional input from outside experts.
The report, which has apparently also been obtained by intelligence agencies in the West, was compiled several months ago. It appears that pressure from China resulted in the delay in officially releasing it. The report cites apparently reliable information indicating that the North Koreans transferred prohibited missile technology to Iran via China.
The report says the trials on the Shahab-3 missile demonstrated a range of 900 kilometers, while the Sejil-1 had a 2,000-kilometer reach. The experts determined that, as with its nuclear program, Iran continues to engage in covert operations to advance its missile capabilities, bypassing sanctions imposed by the UN.
United Nations sanctions are impeding Iranian efforts to develop long-range missiles as well as the country’s nuclear program, the panel says. Nonetheless, the report warns: “Iran’s circumvention of sanctions across all areas, in particular the use of front companies, concealment methods in shipping, financial transactions and the transfer of conventional arms and related materiel, is willful and continuing. Iran maintains its uranium enrichment and heavy water-related activities, as noted in reporting by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and in the area of ballistic missiles, continues to test missiles and engage in prohibited procurement.”
The report also casts Syria in a negative light as a partner in Iranian efforts to acquire and smuggle weapons. For years, Israel has been shining the spotlight on Iranian efforts to develop long-range missiles, some of which are capable of not only hitting targets in Israel but in Europe as well. Some Europeans, notably recently Russia, have shown an interest in reining in the potential threat posed to Europe by Iranian missiles.
While Iran is boasting of its technological progress in a number of military fields, at times producing exaggerated and misleading data, it has recently downplayed its long-range missile capabilities. One reason for this is apparently the sanctions imposed on it, along with the disagreement in the international community over Iran’s true capabilities in this respect.
According to the report, in a period of less than six months, the Iranians launched Sejil and Shahab 3 missiles – some of which had a range of more than 1,000 kilometers – on three occasions.
One of Israel’s leading missile experts, Uzi Rubin, who has obtained a copy of the final report by the panel of experts, told Haaretz that to the best of his understanding, the information in the report on missile testing in Iran is reliable. Rubin, who previously headed the defense establishment’s “Homa” missile-interception project, called the pace of Iranian testing “amazing in scope.”
Concurrent with the long-range missile testing, the Iranians conducted an additional trial of the Fateh-110 missile over a medium range of about 200 kilometers. These missiles were also provided in recent years to Hezbollah, and have the capacity to hit the Tel Aviv area and points south if launched from Lebanon, with greater precision than Hezbollah had at its disposal during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.