Iran's long-range missiles said to lag U.S. intelligence fears

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 7, 2012 7:10pm EST

An Iranian long-range shore-to-sea missile called Qader (Capable) is launched during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman's shore near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi/Handout

An Iranian long-range shore-to-sea missile called Qader (Capable) is launched during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman's shore near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An internal report for the U.S. Congress has concluded that Iran probably is no longer on track, if it ever was, to having an ocean-crossing missile as soon as 2015.

The study casts doubt on a view long held by U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran could be able to test-fly by 2015 an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, if it receives "sufficient foreign assistance."

"It is increasingly uncertain whether Iran will be able to achieve an ICBM capability by 2015," said the report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which works exclusively for lawmakers.

Iran does not appear to be receiving as much help as would likely be necessary, notably from China or Russia, to reach that goal, according to the 66-page report dated Thursday.

It is also increasingly tough for Tehran to obtain certain critical components and materials because of international sanctions related to its disputed nuclear program.

In addition, Iran has not demonstrated the kind of flight test program generally deemed necessary to produce an ICBM, said the study by Steven Hildreth, a specialist in missile defense who consulted seven external expert reviewers.

The study appears to be the most detailed unclassified look yet at Iran's controversial ballistic missile and space programs. It does not address Tehran's nuclear program, which has prompted international fears that it could lead to atomic weapons at short notice.

An effective nuclear-weapons capability requires three things to work together - enough fissile material, a reliable weapons device and an effective delivery system, such as a ballistic missile that can grow out of a space launch program.

Iran's efforts to develop, test and field ballistic missiles and build a space launch capability have helped drive billions of dollars of U.S. ballistic missile defense spending, further destabilized the Middle East and contributed to Israel's push for pre-emptive action.

Iranian missile threats have also prompted a U.S. drive for an increasingly capable shield for Europe, largely built by contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Raytheon Co and Northrop Grumman Corp.

ASSESSING THE ICBM THREAT

The U.S. intelligence community since 1999 has stuck to the conditional 2015 date, provided Iran gets enough outside help, for a potential Iranian ICBM capable of reaching the United States, which is at least 10,000 kilometers away.

An ICBM is generally defined as having a range greater than 5,500 km (3,400 miles). Such missiles from Iran could threaten targets throughout Europe and the Middle East.

"With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015," the Defense Department told Congress in its 2012 annual report on Iranian military power.

Michael Birmingham, a spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which leads the 17 organizations which comprise the U.S. intelligence community, said views among spy agencies vary on the Iranian ICBM outlook.

He added that the 2015 date cited by the Defense Department was "heavily caveated."

Iran appears to have a significant space launch effort, not merely a disguised cover for ICBM development, the Congressional Research Service report said.

Iran became the ninth country to demonstrate an indigenous space launch capability on February 2, 2009, when it launched an Omid satellite from a Safir 2 rocket.

Iran has stated it plans to use future launchers to put intelligence-gathering satellites in orbit, a capability that is a decade or so in the future.

Tom Collina, research director of the private Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the report suggests the United States could respond in a more "measured" way to a potential Iranian long-range missile threat.

"We do not have to deploy missile defenses on the East Coast by 2015, as some in Congress want, nor do we have to rush missile defenses into Europe, which makes Russia nervous," he said.

(Reporting By Jim Wolf; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Todd Eastham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
americanguy wrote:
Israel is the real current issue. Israel now has MIRV ICBMS which can hit the entire US. So I ask the question, why would Israel want to be able to nuke the USA with MIRVs to defeat our missile defense system? “Our friends”? Look out New York and LA and USA, Nutandyahoo is coming to bulldoze your houses and steal your land. It is God’s will that the “chosen people” rule the world (or so Nutandyahoo and his right wing friends believe).
“Israel has deployed a road mobile nuclear ICBM, the Jericho III, which entered service in 2008. It is possible for the missile to be equipped with a single 750 kg nuclear warhead or up to three MIRV warheads. It is based on the Shavit space launch vehicle and is estimated to have a range of 4,800 to 11,500 km[10] (2,982 to 7,180 miles). In November 2011 Israel tested an ICBM believed to be an upgraded version of the Jericho III.”
I hope Iran gets their nukes, we will need them (and China and Russia) in the coming war between Israel and non Jews, which has been told in prophecy and writings. I used to think all that was manure, but now as things develop I see it is probably our future.
Iran is just fulfilling prophecy.
“The Bible prophesies that, at the End of the Age, all the nations of the earth will isolate and attack Israel. (cf. Zechariah 14:2; Joel 3:2; Revelation 16:14)”. Note it says ALL of the nations, but it does not say why the entire world attacks Israel.

Dec 07, 2012 7:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
KaosHiker wrote:
@ americanguy …

Of course Israel has nukes, We gave them to them.They have had them for decades. … Now they make their own.

Actually doesnt the bible say that Satan ( You know, The Bad Guy.) Will lie and decieve the world into believing he is the Messiah.He will unite the world under one world government consisting of Ten districts.He will then under the pretense of goodwill sign a seven year peace contract with Israel. at the end of the seven years.the world will launch an attack on Israel. Wich They will lose due to Divine intervention. And That will usher in a new era for Mankind.There will be 100 years of peace on Earth.

Dont get Me wrong. I am not a religious zealot.I have never read the Bible cover to cover.
So I really cant preach with conviction on this issue.
But I thought that was how the story goes.

Dec 07, 2012 8:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MetalHead8 wrote:
@Americanguy – you think we should watch Israel instead of Iran?
Israel has been a long time ally
Iran host Death to American Parades.

But we should watch Israel becuase you think theres going to be a race war with the Jews vs Non-jews???

How old are you?

Dec 08, 2012 9:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.