Official: Iran missiles pose threat to U.S. interests in Iraq

Monday, December 20, 2004

A senior U.S. official said Iran and Syria have developed ballistic missiles that can destroy U.S. targets in Iraq as well as in nations aligned with Washington.

"Iran and Syria can currently reach the territory of U.S. friends and allies with their ballistic missiles," Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker said.

"Ballistic missiles from Iran can already reach some parts of Europe, and, of course, Iranian and Syrian ballistic missiles threaten our coalition forces deployed in the Middle East," he said.

The United States has also been examining the deployment of ground-based interceptor launchers and forward-based radars in states adjacent to the Middle East, according to a report by Middle East Newsline.

Rademaker told a missile defense conference by the Washington-based American Foreign Policy Council that both countries have received significant assistance from North Korea, which has sought to sell complete missile systems to the Middle East.

Iran is developing space launch vehicles as a building block for an intercontinental ballistic missile which could be completed within a few years, he said on Dec. 17.

"These systems could be ready for flight-testing in the middle to latter-part of the decade," Rademaker said.

Rademaker said North Korea was achieving self-sufficiency in developing and producing ballistic missiles and sought to sell such missiles to the Middle East. He said the missile threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East could grow significantly if Pyongyang sells what he termed longer-range ballistic missiles.

"If North Korea chooses to sell its longer-range ballistic missiles to customers in the Middle East as it has done with its shorter-range systems the risk to our friends and allies could grow exponentially," Rademaker said.

"And it is important to recognize that the limited accuracy and targeting capabilities of emerging ballistic missile threats suggests that hostile states possessing such missiles likely would target the population and territory of our friends and allies rather than their military forces and facilities."

North Korea has sold No Dong missiles to Iran and has developed the Taepo Dong-1 and -2 intermediate-range missiles. Officials said the Taepo Dong-2 could deliver a several hundred kilogram payload up to 15,000 kilometers.

Rademaker said the United States was engaged in missile cooperation with 18 countries, including those in the Middle East.

U.S. cooperation with Israel include the Arrow System Improvement Program, which seeks to provide the Arrow-2 with greater capability against Iranian intermediate-range missiles. Rademaker cited U.S. help for Israel to procure a third Arrow-2 missile defense battery, coproduction of the interceptor and flight tests in the United States.

"As part of the cooperative joint testing project, this past summer Israel conducted two flight tests of the Arrow from Point Magu, California," Rademaker said. "Unlike the Israeli test range, with its range safety restrictions, Point Magu permits testing against a real world Scud."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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