News / Middle East

Western Analysts Unsure of Reasons for Iran Missile Transfer

Launch of a North Korean shorter-range missile from Musudan-ri (file photo - 05 Apr. 2009)
Launch of a North Korean shorter-range missile from Musudan-ri (file photo - 05 Apr. 2009)

Multimedia

Iran has reportedly received a small number of North Korean BM-25 missiles. But it's not entirely clear what the Islamic Republic plans to do with them. Western analysts have differing theories about Tehran's intentions.

The reported transfer of 19 North Korean BM-25 medium range ballistic missiles to Iran has added yet another layer to the ongoing discussion in the West about Tehran's military – and possibly nuclear – intentions. But analysts differ in their assessment of Iran's purpose for this missile, which was derived from an old Russian design.

One analyst, Michael Elleman at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, says this missile made its first public appearance only a short time ago.

"A version of what we believe is the BM-25 was paraded in Pyongyang last month, which gave us a bit of information about what this missile might actually look like. But, it has never been tested," Elleman said.

Analysts are not in total agreement that the BM-25 exists. Some speculate that North Korea may have paraded a display mockup rather than a real missile.

A publication that has followed Iran's acquisition of the BM-25 is Aviation Week & Space Technology, which is closely read both by the aerospace industry and governments around the world.

David Fulghum is the senior military editor for Aviation Week, and published an article on the BM-25 on October 14.

Fulghum says a Middle East government gave him key information about it: "I first heard about it from the Israelis six months ago, and, they said that they had been delivered – complete missiles had been delivered – to Iran."

Fulghum says the BM-25, which North Korea calls the Musdan, has a projected range of 3 to 4 thousand kilometers, and is carried on a mobile launcher. Some in the West have claimed this missile could create yet another threat to countries in Europe, as well as the Middle East.

But Fulghum says he suspects that Iran wants to use the BM-25 for research and development, rather than put it into active service.

"I think it is part of a test program," Fulghum said. "They want to develop a missile that can be a threat, but also that can help them carry bigger payloads further. That is something that they needed – a new airframe – and that is what the BM-25 gives them."

While many in the West are sharply focused on the possibility that the BM-25 was brought in to help Iran build offensive weapons, I-I-S-S analyst Michael Elleman says he sees Tehran using it for its space program, not for strategic purposes.

For years, North Korea was seen as providing both hardware and technology to Iran to give it a jump start in its military and space programs. But now, some analysts say, Tehran may be taking the lead in some of this development. Aviation Week's Fulghum explains why the relationship between the two countries may have switched:

"Iran, at this point, has more money [and] has more freedom to do the development," Fulghum added. "[Iran] has more access to the kinds of materials that you would need than North Korea does. North Korea depends a lot on the Chinese. The Chinese are under pressure from us not to export [certain technologies to North Korea.]"

David Fulghum, Michael Elleman, and other Iranian missile watchers say that regardless of where the development comes from, the results will be difficult to keep secret. Missiles have to be launched to be tested, and when they are, other nations track them closely to learn how well they perform, and what threats they may pose to others.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs