UPI: Iran`s Revolutionary Guard commander met secretly with A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan`s atomic bomb, in an effort to acquire nuclear-capable missiles with a range of 1,800 miles, according to Iranian dissidents. United Press International
By Claude Salhani
WASHINGTON, DC, United States – Iran`s Revolutionary Guard commander met secretly with A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan`s atomic bomb, in an effort to acquire nuclear-capable missiles with a range of 1,800 miles, according to Iranian dissidents.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc., and a former representative of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MeK, said Tehran`s mullahs are lying when they claim contacts with Khan were conducted in a non-military context.
Jafarzadeh asks the International Atomic Energy Agency interview Khan`s counterpart in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, “as soon as possible.” Jafarzadeh states that based on reports received in 1986 and 1987, three commanders of the IRGC met with Khan in Tehran.
The IRGC delegation to Pakistan was headed by Mohammad Eslami, chief of the Guards` research center. At the time of the meeting, the IRGC`s research center`s main mission was nuclear weapons research. That meeting was coordinated by the then head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Reza Amrollahi.
As a result of those meetings, relations between the IRGC and Khan`s network grew “very close.” Pakistan became one of the main countries helping Iran further its nuclear research.
Another delegation from Iran`s Atomic Energy Organization also met with Khan. These included Mohammad Reza Ayatollahi, then deputy director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and Seyyed Mohammad Haj Saeed, chief of the Directorate of Research of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Parallel to its quest for nuclear capability, Tehran has also pursued the development of long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This was accomplished by using reverse engineering. It was Tehran`s main intention when it secretly purchased cruise missiles from Ukraine four years ago, says Jafarzadeh.
“The Iranian regime has now mastered the technology through reverse engineering process.”
Missiles with a range of 1,800 miles places most of Europe within Tehran`s reach, said Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani. It also places most of Israel within Iran`s missile range.
Ukraine, says Jafarzadeh, secretly sold 12 cruise Kh-55 missiles to Iran. The missiles initially received by Iran`s Defense Ministry were subsequently delivered to the Revolutionary Guards. These missiles can be mounted with nuclear warheads.
Indeed, an investigation by Ukraine`s secret police found that Iran (and China) bought long-range missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads, said Grigory Omelchenko, a Ukrainian politician.
Omelchenko is reported by the Financial Times to claim that Ukraine`s SBU secret police had found that 12 Kh-55s were illegally exported in 1999-2001. He said six of the air-to-ground cruise missiles were sold to Iran; the other six went to China.
The Kh-55 — known as the AS-15 by the U.S. military — has an accurate guidance system. A private Ukrainian company was sanctioned last September by the United States for violating a U.S. ban on proliferation to Iran.
Iran, says Jafarzadeh, has been successful in acquiring the technology for Kh-55 cruise missiles and Tehran is in the final stages of reproducing those missiles. Unlike the Scuds and Shahab 3, these missiles are difficult to intercept. The Kh-55 cruise missile flies at low altitude, making it easier to evade detection.
This cruise missile group is one of the most important divisions of the Air and Space arm of Iran`s defense industry. It maintains extensive centers in Parchin, Lavizan, Tehran and Mashhad.
Ever since the end of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988, strengthening its strategic missile system has been a pivotal part of Tehran`s military strategy. That was when Iran adopted the Preventive Defense Strategy based on the following 3 fundamentals:
— The ability to sustain high casualties; with this in mind, the Bassij (mobilization) force was created within the IRGC.
— To acquire missile technology in order to compensate for the weakness of the air force in order to prevent air attacks.
— To acquire a nuclear bomb in order to deter future attacks by Iran`s enemies.
Given the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead the cruise missile becomes much more significant.
“It can carry a nuclear warhead and it allows the regime to reach areas in far distances,” said Jafarzadeh.
“In light of Iran`s nuclear weapons program, its advanced missile technology and the progress it has made in nuclear-capable missiles,” this becomes a “most threatening” situation, says Jafarzadeh.
The Iranian dissident sees the past 22 months of negotiations held between Iran and the EU3 — Britain, France and Germany — to try and dissuade the Islamic republic from pursuing its nuclear ambitions, as having “backfired.”
“Iran has shifted its status from a defensive to an offensive position,” said Jafarzadeh. Europe`s policy of “engagement, indecisiveness, or appeasement” has further emboldened the Iranian regime.
In a thinly veiled reference to Washington`s maintaining the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq on the U.S. State Department`s list of terrorist organizations, Jafarzadeh stated, “blacklisting Iran`s main opposition who provided much of the information on Iran`s nuclear weapons program, has had a negative effect.”
Appeasing Iran, states Jafarzadeh, will not work. The United States, he said, “needs to urge the Europeans to include another option — referring Iran`s file to the U.N. Security Council.”
At the same time, Jafarzadeh believes Washington should tighten the “political screws thru empowering (the) Iranian opposition,” and removing “any and all restrictions on the Iranian opposition.”
In what seems to have become a never-ending cat-and-mouse game between the Islamic republic and the international community, Iran said Friday it is “ready to closely cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” according to Ali Larijani, the secretary of Iran`s Supreme National Security Council.
“The Islamic Republic is serious in its intentions to master peaceful atom and considers it its legal right. We acknowledge that peaceful nuclear technology development should be carried out under IAEA supervision and are ready to closely cooperate with it in this direction,” Larijani told journalists in Iran, Friday, after returning from Vienna where he held talks with IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei a day earlier.
If the intelligence provided by the MeK is correct, and nothing leads to believe otherwise, Iran is most likely to acquire nuclear capability within two to five years. They already have the intermediary range delivery mechanism.