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

Fri Dec 7, 2012 7:11pm EST
 

By Jim Wolf

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.   Continued...

 
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