Russian scientists are increasingly concerned that years of cooperation with Iran on its civilian space program has provided the technology for Iranian development of missiles that would be capable of reaching Tel Aviv or Moscow, according to a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency review of Russian press accounts and statements.
Russian military and space experts have concluded that Iran has mastered technology for both liquid-fueled and solid-propelled rocket engines, as well as multistage launch vehicles. Russian officials and legislators, in contrast, are playing down Iran’s capability and intentions to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), according to the unreleased Nov. 12 assessment prepared by the CIA’s Open Source Office.
The report, based on unclassified sources of information from Russia, doesn’t represent the coordinated views of the CIA, it says. Still, the document’s a timely distillation as the United States attempts to win Russia’s backing for a regional missile defense program to protect against the potential of Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles.
The report points to Russia’s state news, RIA Novosti, which in July 2010 noted Iran’s orbiting of the Rasad-1, an Iranian-developed weather and navigation satellite, and reported that Iran may be developing a ballistic missile with a range of 4,000 km (2,485 miles) to 5,000 km (3,106 miles). That would have potentially the range to hit as far as London, 4,408 km (2,740 miles) away.
Cities in Range
Viktor Mizin, the deputy head of the Moscow State University of International Relations’ Institute of International Studies, said in September 2009 he expected Iran within the decade to develop reliable medium-range missile systems with a range of about 3,000 km (1,864 miles).
Missiles at that range could reach Tel Aviv, which is 1,598 km (993 miles) from Tehran, and Moscow, which is 2461 km (1,529 miles) from Iran’s capital.
Mizin also saw a move toward testing of Iran’s first ICBM with a range of 3,500 km (2,174 miles) to 5,000 km (3,106 miles).
“A variety of Russian experts over the past few years have said Tehran intends to use Space Launch Vehicle technology to develop ICBM systems that could reach targets throughout most of the Middle East,” said the CIA report.
“There is less consensus among Russian experts regarding the pace at which Iran will be able to develop ICBMs,” it said.
While Russian officials and politicians downplayed Iranian capabilities and intentions to develop ICBMs, their actions showed concern growing over Russian assistance to the Iranian space programs, according the report said.
Russia Now ‘Reluctant’
Russia “appears reluctant” to help Iran with the development of the Zoreh telecommunications satellite with a lifespan of 15 years, the report said, citing the head of Russian Federal Space Agency who, during the 2009 Paris Air Show, said that “no work is currently being done on a second Iranian satellite.”
The first Iranian telecommunications satellite, Sinah-1, was built by Russia and launched in 2005 on a Kosmos-3 booster rocket from North Russia’s Plesetsk Space Center.
Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Seyyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi, complained in a November 2009 interview that many programs had been “struck down” in various Russian agencies, while a number of joint projects were halted by “hidden factors,” the agency said.
“Iran’s primary effort to develop its space technology sector is likely intended for military purposes,” Alexandr Nemets, a Russian scholar, and Robert Kurz, an analyst at the U.S. Army’s Fort Leavenworth Foreign Military Studies Office, wrote in a 2009 paper in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.
“This obviously includes its development of reconnaissance and military telecom satellites, the technology to upgrade long-range missiles such as the Shahab-3 class, and the development of the more powerful Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 missiles,” the study said.
Russian-Iranian cooperation in this field could lead to effective development of an Iranian ICBM, wrote Nemets and Kurz.