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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid