New York Times: Iran is secretly developing a longer-range ballistic missile than it has publicly acknowledged, with the capacity to strike targets as far away as Berlin, an opposition group plans to assert publicly on Thursday. The group says
the missile, which it says could have the capacity to carry nuclear warheads, is being developed with help from … New York Times
By DOUGLAS JEHL
WASHINGTON – Iran is secretly developing a longer-range ballistic missile than it has publicly acknowledged, with the capacity to strike targets as far away as Berlin, an opposition group plans to assert publicly on Thursday.
The group says the missile, which it says could have the capacity to carry nuclear warheads, is being developed with help from North Korean scientists, even as Iran has agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in a new pact with three European countries.
The dissident group says the new missile would have a range of more than 1,500 miles, hundreds of miles longer than the most advanced missiles now in Iran’s arsenal, an upgraded version of the Shahab-3 that was tested in the summer.
The group, the National Council of Resistance, is the political arm of the People’s Mujahedeen, and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization. It has had a mixed record of credibility about developments in Iran. But several of its disclosures have proved accurate and have played a significant role in unearthing secret Iranian nuclear activities.
Iran’s defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, said in early November that the country could “mass produce” its Shahab-3 missile, a weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The versions of those missiles now in Iran’s arsenal have a range of 800 miles to 1,000 miles but Mr. Shamkhani said his country recently upgraded that range to 1,250 miles. In remarks on state-run television, however, he rejected reports that Iran was seeking to produce a longer-range missile.
But in an unclassified report issued last month, the Central Intelligence Agency said that Iran “is pursuing longer-range ballistic missiles” than the Shahab-3 and its follow-on versions. In public testimony last February, George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, said that Iran could begin flight testing those longer-range missiles “in the mid- to latter part of the decade.”
Neither Iran nor the United States government has publicly described the new missile that the Iranian group says is being developed. Officials of the group said they believed the weapon is known as the Ghadr, which means capable or powerful, and would operate on solid-fueled engines, meaning it could be launched much more quickly than the liquid-fueled, medium-range missiles now in Iran’s arsenal.
Officials of the People’s Mujahedeen, which is based in Paris, provided a detailed written outline of their contentions and discussed them in telephone interviews on Wednesday. One senior official, Muhammad Mohaddessin, said the group believed Iran could conduct test flights of the new missile within months.
In New York, Morteza Ramandi, a spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, denied that Iran was developing a ballistic missile with a range greater than 1,250 miles.
A C.I.A. spokesman said Wednesday that the agency would add nothing to its previous public statements about Iran’s missile program.
Iran has long sought to become self-sufficient in the production of ballistic missiles, and the C.I.A. said in the report issued last month that North Korea, China and the former Soviet Union had helped it toward that goal. In recent years, North Korea has been the most important source of Iranian missile technology.
Mr. Mohaddessin said in a telephone interview that he believed the development of the new missile showed that Iran had “to a good extent become self-sufficient.” While North Korean scientists were providing aid, he said, “the most important role is now played by the Iranians themselves.”
He said the group believed that the missile was being developed in close conjunction with efforts to design a warhead capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.