North Korea: Missiles, Nukes, . . . and Iran

Iran isn’t getting a lot of press these days and, my guess is that they are probably okay being out of the international spotlight.  North Korea, on the other hand, never seems to let another day go by without doing something to make sure that they are in the headlines.   Indeed, the supposed nuclear ambitions of the Iranians seems to have dropped off of the radar of most Western Media outlets in favor of the extreme push to develop these same weapons by the NORKs.  Over the past year, to year and a half, the North Korean’s weapons program has accelerated to an amazing extent while Iran’s has, supposedly, come to a screeching halt.  Iran though, and obviously North Korea, continues to develop its ballistic missile program–as if it will one day have a nuke to place atop one of these–or several of these–ballistic missiles.  I believe its common knowledge that the first versions of Iran’s ballistic missiles were pretty much copies of a North Korean design.  But their cooperation goes much deeper than this.  Maj Gen Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, told Fox News in January, 2016, “We know that the Iranians were at the last nuclear test a couple of year ago, [and] we know that the Iranians are helping the North Koreans miniaturize their nuclear weapons.”  He went on to say that “Iran is able to circumvent it (our nuclear deal with Iran) by using their technological colleagues in Pakistan and their test-site facility in North Korea to push their own nuclear ambitions.”  Furthermore, “the Iranians and North Koreans are both developing long-range ballistic missiles by collaborating together.”  (All quotes taken from Anthony Cordesman’s article,  “Are North Korea and Iran Cooperating to Build Long-Range Weapons of Mass Destruction? An Assessment.” and can be found here.)  This weekend, for the first time, Iran put on display its 1,250 mile range Khoramshahr ballistic missile and then test fired it the next day.  It’s obviously way too soon to fully understand the nature of cooperation, if any, between Iran and North Korea for this latest variant, but it certainly remains possible.  Michael Elleman of 38North has an excellent summary of this following the first test of this Iranian missile in January of this year and can be found here.

Personally, what I find interesting is the coincidence to which Claudie Rosett refers in her article “The Audacity of Silence on Possible Iran-North Korea Nuclear Ties,” and can be found here.   Indeed, no sooner than did the United States, under the Obama Administration, lift economic sanctions and deliver $1.7 billion in cash to the Iranians than the North Korean’s missile and nuclear program reached a seemingly warp-speed development pace–almost as if someone was bank-rolling them.

The bottom line, is that since the Iranian nuclear deal, a lot of testing has been conducted on ballistic missiles by both countries.  For Iran, who has promised not to develop a nuclear weapon, why the urgent need for a ballistic missile?  I mean, you could put a conventional warhead on one of these missiles, but why would you when there are significantly cheaper and easier methods available?  Unless, as Rosett implies, North Korea is serving as the nuclear testing ground for Iran.  Again, her intriguing article can be found here.

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