Russian Assistance to Iran's missileprograms


Testimony on H.R. 1883, Iran NonproliferationAct

before Congressman Dana Rohrabacher


Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics ofthe

Committee on Science

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC

July 13, 1999


by Kenneth R. Timmerman

President, Middle East Data Project, Inc.


My name is Kenneth R. Timmerman, and I am the director of theMiddle East Data Project, an independent consulting group thatspecializes in analyzing strategic trade. We also publish a monthlyinvestigative newsletter, The Iran Brief.

The public record of Russian government-sponsored transfers ofmissile technology to Iran is dense. In the 13-page chronology I haveappended to my testimony, members can see just how much we know aboutthis very grave threat to the post Cold War security environment.

Clearly Russia committed herself to not transferring nuclear ormissile technology to aggressive regimes such as the Islamic Republicof Iran or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, when she agreed to accept U.S. aidin the aftermath of the Cold War.

But President Yeltsin and his top aides have been using thesetransfers as the currency of blackmail, to extort ever greateramounts of aid from the U.S. taxpayer, all in the name of securingRussia's weapons and preventing the leakage of Russian technology andRussian scientists to radical states.

Clearly, Mr. Chairman, we have been duped. And duped again.

Russian Assistance

Russian assistance to Iran's missile programs involves three keyelements:

1) general scientific and academic exchanges;

2) missile-specific technology transfers and training

3) project-specific transfers of equipment, material, and designinformation

Scientific and academic exchanges

Ruszian scientists and academics began working in Iran not longafter Mikhail Gorbachev expanded Soviet ties with Iran in 1988. Atthe time, the strategic goal of the Soviet Union was to see the U.S.military naval presence in the Persian Gulf reduced . Today, theRussian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran share that samegoal. We should keep that in mind as we contemplate the record of theRussian government's missile and nuclear transfers to Iran. They allserve a strategic purpose, which the Clinton administration has beenloathe to acknowledge in its desire to support Mr. Yeltsin and thecleptocrats who surround him.

Today, Russian academics teach scientific disciplines in a varietyof Iranian universities. They must get approval from the Russianintelligence service to do so. According to one Iranian army officerwho fought in the Iran-Iraq war, the majority of these academicexchanges involve weapons-related fields. For instance, Russianinstructors teaching underwater acoustics are said to be aidingIranian efforts to design and build mini-submarines. Russianaerospace engineers have helped Iran upgrade U.S.-origin fighter jetsand helicopters, integrating Russian-built missiles and avionics.

So for the better part of a decade, Russia has been training anentire generation of Iranian weapons designers.

This has been a conscious policy decision on the part of theRussian government, not some ad-hoc arrangement by unemployedscientists.

Missile Specific technology transfers, training, and design

In the missile arena, eight State institutes andrecently-privatized universities have been identified in the publicsource literature for providing training in ballistics, aeronauticdesign, liquid and solid fuel booster design, and missile guidance toIranian students.

These are highly specialized disciplines, not just ordinarygraduate student work. Once again, the Russian government has directinvolvement. Not only does it approve visa application for thevisiting Iranians, but given the sensitive nature of their studies itmust grant specific permits allowing the Iranians access toclassified areas.

The state security apparatus is facilitating these exchanges, andaccording to both Israel and U.S. sources, is using information weprovide to them through what used to be called the Gore-Chernomyrdincommission, to better conceal their activities.

Project-specific transfers of equipment, material, parts andassemblies

Beyond this, Iran has turned to Russian state-owned and recentlyprivatized firms to acquire missile manufacturing equipment,specialized materials, parts and subassemblies, as well as entirerocket motors. In so doing, Russia has committed Category I andCategory II violations of the Missile Technology Control Regime,which it has pledged to respect.

I have appended a list of 20 Russian entities engaged in theseactivities, detailing what we know from the public record. These arenot trivial items, Mr. Chairman. But the real number is likely to beseveral times that many. We are talking about a massive hemorrhage ofstrategic technology.


The case of the Russian Space Agency

The Russian Space Agency is in a category by itself - not merelybecause it is the subject of our hearing today - but because itoversees virtually the entire Russian space and missile industry.

The RSA owns many of the institutes and production facilities thatare currently assisting Iran's missile program. And those it does notown, it controls, by doling out research money and productioncontracts.

If the RSA wanted to shut down the missile pipeline to Iran, itcould do so tomorrow. Obviously, until now, the RSA has not been madeto feel it had anything to lose by continuing this trade withIran.

The Russians have attempted to pin the blame on Glavcosmos, whichwas one of the entities sanctioned by the White House in July 1998.Glavcosmos oversees foreign sales of space technology, and is deeplyinvolved in Iran . But Glavcosmos is just a trading company, Withoutthe RSA, Glavcosmos would have no technology to sell. To cut off themissile pipeline, you have to go to the source. And that is theRussian Space Agency.

The KOSAR missile

And the bad news is that the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 programs areonly the beginning. Iran is preparing to test a new multi-stagemissile that if successful will give it the capability of reachingthe continental United States.

The new missile, code-named "Kosar," is being designed with directassistance from Russian aerospace entities. Early reports suggest itwill be powered with a version of Russia's RD-216 liquid fuel boosterengine, which was used in the Soviet era SS-5 IRBMs . The RD-216 wasdeveloped by Energomash, which is under the direct control of theRussian Space Agency.

If you have not already done so, Mr. Chairman, I stronglyrecommend that you request a classified briefing on the Kosar missile, and on the ongoing preparations at Iran's Shahroud missile rangefor a test launch that could occur later this summer.


Iran's strategy is Russia's strategy

The Islamic Republic considers the development of long-rangeballistic missiles of tremendous strategic importance. These missilesallow them to target Israel, thus making Iran a "front-line" stateand a direct player in the making of peace or war. They also giveIran the ability to blackmail the United States, and limit ourfreedom of action in the Persian Gulf.

The Russian government shares these aims. Former Prime MinisterPrimakov was fond of saying he wanted to see international checks andbalances imposed on U.S. power. In particular, Primakov wanted to seethe UN Security Council take precedence over the U.S. Congress or theWhite House when it came to deciding on foreign militaryintervention.

What better check on U.S. power than to have radical,anti-American regimes in the Middle East equipped with missilescapable of reaching the United States?

So far, Mr. Chairman, the administration has missed everyopportunity for slowing down Iran's deadly march toward ICBMcapability.

This legislation may be our last chance to accomplish thatgoal.