Iranian Satellite Launch Uses Rocket Technology Similar To Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

White House Expresses ‘Acute Concern’ Toward Iranian Missile Feat; Clinton Critical

By Dave Ahearn

Two rogue nations are moving to demonstrate advanced ballistic missile technologies, jolting U.S. leaders who must decide whether and how well to support continued ballistic missile defense programs.

In one eye-opener, Iran launched a satellite into space, using rocket technology similar to that for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and the satellite was over the United States within half a hour of leaving the launch pad.

Separately, North Korea has moved a large cylindrical object toward its new missile launching center in the northwestern portion of the insular communist nation, with military analysts speculating that it is a Taepo Dong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile. If North Korea finishes developing the weapon, it has a range that could reach the United States. Pyongyang also has developed and tested a nuclear weapon.

However, North Korea said it is beginning a space program, much as Iran has launched its venture into space. And that would give Pyongyang a victory: the technological breakthrough to build ICBMs.

Iran Surges Ahead

In the Middle East development, “Iran has demonstrated the key technologies of propulsion, staging and guidance to deliver a weapon of mass destruction globally,” an ICBM, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance stated.

The Iranian action, which came despite President Obama’s repeatedly saying over the past year or more that he wishes to make peaceful overtures toward Tehran, was greeted with consternation at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration views the Iranian launch with “acute concern.”

Similarly, “We are reaching out our hand [to Iran], but first the fist has to unclench,” a clearly displeased Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. That paraphrased Obama’s recent words, in which he said the United States is prepared to work peacefully with Iran if it first abandons its threatening militaristic drive.

However, the twin events in Iran and North Korea prompted only qualified administration endorsement of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs to counter mounting threats posed by the two isolated regimes.

Vice President Biden said Saturday at a European security conference in Munich attended by other NATO allies that the United States will continue with plans for a missile defense against Iranian BMD capabilities. But Biden immediately added that would be true only if the BMD technology is proven to work and is “cost effective.”

Former President Bush developed a plan to construct a U.S.-built European Missile Defense (EMD) system, with a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in ground silos in Poland.

The EMD would involve a two-stage variant of the three-stage Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors now operational in Alaska and California. Missile defense experts have argued that the EMD variant would have equivalent dependability with the GMD interceptors.

But Democrats in Congress have demanded that the EMD interceptors be tested before EMD construction can begin, a process that could devour two years.

Meanwhile, Iran is again surprising U.S. intelligence experts with the speed of its advances.

Only two weeks ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told senators and House members that Iran was perhaps two to three years away from having a missile with a range able to reach Europe and Russian. Then, last week, Iran launched the satellite, proving it has missile technology that not only could strike Europe and Russia, but the United States as well.

Further, Iran has thousands of centrifuges whirling, producing nuclear materials. While Iran claims to be producing fuel for an electrical generating plant, Western observers fear Tehran is about to build nuclear weapons beginning this year.

Some unknown amount of time would be required to miniaturize any atomic weapon so that it would fit atop a missile.

Biden, in his remarks, deplored the threatening Iranian developments. Using the carrot-and-stick approach that thus far has failed to persuade Iranian leaders to halt their missile and nuclear programs, he said continuing on that course will yield pressure and isolation for Iran, while abandoning the nuclear program and support for terrorism would be rewarded with “incentives.”

It is precisely because Iran has stubbornly continued in its missile and nuclear programs that the EMD system was proposed. However, Russia has opposed the EMD system and its 10 interceptors, alleging that it could be used to knock down any of the hundreds of Russian ICBMs, a claim that U.S. leaders have said is ludicrous. Top Russian leaders have gone so far as to threaten to deploy Iskander missiles near Poland if the EMD system is built.

Biden said at the conference that the Obama administration wishes to “push the reset button” on the strained U.S.-Russian relations.

He noted that Moscow could, if it chose, help to dissuade both Iran and North Korea from their continuing headlong rush to produce nuclear weapons.

Biden argued that Americans and Russians can differ on some topics, while still working together on other problems where they have parallel mutual interests.

In the United States, Riki Ellison, president and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, warned that Iran has taken an immense step forward in developing its missile technology, with the launch of the Omid satellite.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has just proved for the first time that it has the capability to place satellites in space, by successfully launching a three stage liquid fueled rocket that has placed two objects in low Earth orbit,” Ellison said. “It is estimated that this Iranian satellite took 30 minutes to reach United States air space.”

This means that Iran now holds the technological keys to the secrets of producing ICBMs, he noted.

“Iran has demonstrated the key technologies of propulsion, staging and guidance to deliver a weapon of mass destruction globally,” he said. The satellite, circling 224 miles above Earth at speeds of 4.6 miles per second, will continue repeatedly passing over the United States, he noted.

Iran Can Strike Anywhere

“This significant … event and milestone for Iran has unequivocally demonstrated the key technical attributes to deliver a payload into orbit and the mathematical ability to release that payload at any chosen point around our planet,” Ellison stated.

“Specifically, Iran demonstrated the key attributes of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in its space launched vehicle (SLV). The Islamic Republic of Iran technically validated and proved the use of multiple staging, propulsion, and precise guidance and control to deliver a payload into orbit. Even more impressive is Iran’s national will to develop and launch this remarkable technical feat despite decades of encompassing international sanctions, the diplomatic efforts from the international community, isolation and international arms control treaties that were put in place to prevent this type of breakthrough. This event has surprised Russian generals who have recently told American Generals that ‘Iran will never achieve this capability in our lifetime.'”

In his congressional testimony, Gates noted that Russians said Iran would require 10 to 15 years to develop a missile able to strike Europe and Russia.

With this satellite-orbiting success under its belt, Iran now will move to build more such rockets, Ellison predicted.

“Iran, with its new knowledge and demonstrated performance capability of its SLV — coupled with its already existing industry base that has produced close to a 1,000 short and medium-range ballistic missiles — will scale up production over the next year to two years to produce ICBMs capable of striking any target around the world Iran deems necessary for its national security,” he warned.

“Every major city in the United States and Europe could be targeted with a warhead, and if Iran continues unabated to develop a nuclear weapon, that warhead would be a weapon of mass destruction.”

North Korean Threat

Separately, North Korea appears poised to attempt once again to launch a long distance missile, after a prior attempt in 2006 ended in failure.

In that incident, North Korea launched seven missiles, with all of them flying successfully except the long-range Taepo Dong-2. It failed about 12 seconds after liftoff.

With years more development effort invested, Pyongyang now seems confident that its intercontinental ballistic missile will succeed this time.

Or, North Korea may be readying its own launch of a satellite, saying that it has a right to run a space program.

Some analysts say the Taepo Dong-2 can reach Hawaii and Alaska, while others said a more advanced version could reach much of North America. If North Korea launches a satellite, however, it will have the missile technology to build a weapon that could strike any target, anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, North Korea at times has supplied missile technology to Iran, but it is Iran that appears to have produced an indigenous rocket similar to an ICBM first.

All of this proves that the United States urgently needs a multi-layered ballistic missile defense shield, now, Ellison stated.

“The time is now to accelerate our country’s deployment and development of missile defense both domestically and internationally,” he urged. “We as a nation and a world cannot be held hostage by an Iranian or North Korean long-range ballistic missile with a weapon of mass destruction targeted at one or more of our cities. Furthermore, deployment of missile defense renders Iran’s and North Korea’s future ICBMs useless and dissuades Iran and North Korea from investing and building these long range missiles while increasing stability in the region with our allies and giving our diplomatic initiatives more time to succeed.”

Ellison urged Obama to press ahead with missile defense programs. “Missile defense is an option that President Obama must have to protect and defend our nation and the world from Iran and North Korea,” Ellison concluded.