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)


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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs