Belmont Club

Iran's missile test

Joshua Kucera, writing at US News and World report, thinks that Iran’s missile test on Wednesday will complicate Barack Obama’s diplomacy. Yet another attempt at seeing an unclenched fist has ended in being shown the finger.


The new missile tested by Iran on Wednesday, the Sejil-2, appeared to crash harmlessly into the empty desert of northern Iran after a successful launch. But it could yet claim one casualty: U.S. efforts to improve relations with Iran. … the head of missile forces in Iran reports not to Ahmadinejad but to Khamenei, who had originally said he was going to stay out of the election, claiming he was “just one vote.” And he initially appeared open to the Obama administration’s gestures toward rapprochement.

But Khamenei’s position appears to have changed, says Alex Vatanka, senior Middle East analyst at Jane’s Information Group. Tehran expected to get some credit for releasing American journalist Roxana Saberi soon after she was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage. Instead, this week President Obama greeted Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Iran’s archenemy Israel, at the White House and alluded to a deadline for progress on the Iranian nuclear issue by the end of the year. The mention of a deadline was little noticed in Washington but raised hackles in Iran, where the government does not want to be pressed like that, Vatanka says.


The chief improvement of Iran’s Sejil II is that it relies on solid-fuel rocket motors, which unlike vulnerable liquid fueled rockets, can be fired quickly. The Strategy Page says it got the solid-fuel rocket motors from Pakistan.

A year ago, Iran tested a new IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) called the Sejil. This was a solid fuel missile. Two years ago, Iran had a failed test of a solid fuel ballistic missile it called “Ashura.” The Sajil appeared to be the Ashura with a new name, and modifications that make it work. Even then, the big question was, who did they get the solid fuel manufacturing technology from? There are many potential vendors (North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, China, or even stolen from the West). The Ashura test failure last year involved some problem with the second stage, not with the solid fuel rocket motors. Iran has been manufacturing solid fuel for smaller rockets for over a decade, but had not yet developed the technology to build larger, and reliable, solid fuel rocket motors. Israel believes that Iran got the advanced solid fuel technology from Pakistan.


Pakistan is an American ally and a recipient of large amounts of American aid. But as the Beatles once sang, “money can’t buy me love”. Maybe not respect either. And the beat goes on. The WSJ writes:

WASHINGTON — Signs of growth in North Korea’s nuclear program and the country’s increasing isolation are renewing fears about Pyongyang’s ability and need to smuggle weapons of mass destruction around the world, said U.S. and United Nations officials.

North Korea’s arms trade has focused on Iran and Syria, countries Washington views as state sponsors of terrorism, as well as Libya. Officials say North Korean arms have also been sold to nations allied with the U.S., such as Egypt and Yemen, and to the military regime in Myanmar.

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