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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More