Iran's Missile Capabilities

News Conference with Soona Samsami and Alireza Jafarzadeh
January 7, 1998

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile
  • Chemical


National Council of Resistance of Iran

MR. JAFARZADEH: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our press conference today.

My name is Alireza Jafarzadeh, along with my colleague Ms. Soona Sansami. We are members of the International Relations Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. And we would like to share with you the information that we have recently obtained, from within the Iranian regime, regarding the advancement of the missile program of the Iranian regime. According to reliable information from within the Iranian regime, in 1997 the mullahs managed to build medium-range missiles and to increase their range to 1,400 kilometers. These missiles, called Shahop (sp) III, have been tested at least once. The project is now focused on enhancing variations and number.

Just recently, a problem with the engine valve was overcome and the prototype successfully produced. As the next step, the Iranian regime is currently trying to produce 15 missiles. This new missile capability brings it for the first time within striking range of the key states of the region, including Israel, much of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and all of the Gulf sheikdoms.

Money is no object in the bid to embellish the mullahs' missile arsenal. According to our information, more than $1.2 billion have been spent since its onset. In 1997 alone, $300 million was allocated for the missile project.

Of course, these figures relate only to the funds coming from the military armaments budget. In fact, Supreme Leader (Khamenei ?), who has vast sums of resources, including the religious taxes, at his disposal, has also spent significant amounts of money on the project, in addition.

The payload of these missiles is 1,000 kilograms and may consist of conventional explosives, chemical agents, or nuclear materials.

According to our sources within the regime, the mullahs are capable of now manufacturing the fuel section, the section where fuel is oxidized, the tail, and a good part of the warhead. But they have not managed to manufacture the guidance system. For this reason, it's imported from abroad.

As for the engine, the regime has begun to manufacture some parts. The launchers can now be mass-produced in their entirety.

In early 1997, one of the top officials of the regime, an admiral, said privately, and we quote, "We are very close to producing missiles with a range of 1,300 to 1,400 kilometers. We have obtained the technology that we need. All we need now is time." And this is now the time.

Now as far as the foreign assistance is concerned, the mullahs are receiving technical assistance from North Korea and China. Groups of Iranian experts and military personnel have traveled to these countries. In 1997 the regime dispatched 350 of its agents from various sections to North Korea for training, including General Manteri (sp), as head of the missile section of the Organization of Defense Industries.

In April of 1993, Manteri (sp) headed a 21-man delegation which spent 15 days in North Korea discussing the technical aspects of the contracts.

Now, as far as the facilities and research are concerned, the regime's surface-to-surface missile projects, including research, manufacture, assembling of all medium range missiles, are handled by the Hemat missile industrial complex, which is itself a division of the missile section of the Organization of Defense Industries.

All of these missiles can carry chemical and nuclear warheads, as I said. The Hemat complex itself comprises a central control system and a number of laboratories that do not require much space. In particular, some of the final experiments and production stages are carried out in this complex. Those in charge of the Hemat complex -- (word inaudible) -- the Guard's military industry projects. In other words, other Guard's military factories function under the supervision of this complex, and this complex has a staff of 400.

Presently, dozens of North Korean and Chinese missile experts are stationed at the Hemat complex. These experts reside in a hotel within the grounds because the mullahs do not allow them to stay elsewhere to prevent information leak.

The missile group of the Organization of Defense Industries has six subsections of which Hemat Missile Industries is among the most important ones. Hemat's main center is located in the suburbs of Tehran in the Hemat garrison on Oboli (sp) Road in Saniti Oshmeneshi (ph) Street, which is east of Tehran. The Hemat complex also has a research center, code name "6,000." This center is working on guidance and control systems now.

The Bureau of Security is very concerned about information leaks. So when a complex is closed, strict security regulations are enforced, in particular regarding computer data on the projects copied from other countries or home-produced.

The head of the security department of the Hemat complex is an individual by the name of Al-Zizi (ph), and all telephone lines are tapped.

There is also another garrison named Quajareh (sp) garrison, as well as Osmaish garrison who are part of the Hemat complex. In the Quajareh (sp) garrison, which is divided into various factories, work is focused on the missile launchers. Chemical tests requiring large area are also carried out here. For instance, experiments on missile explosives and fuels are done at Quajareh (sp). With a personnel of 200, the complex is located between several hills on Lashgarak (ph) Road which is 35 kilometers from the junction. It consists of research laboratories for the theoretical work, production plants, and explosive and fuel plants. Dr. Najafi (sp) is in charge of the body of the missile, and an individual named Hairi (sp) is in charge of the metallurgical department.

The production plants consist of several buildings where chemicals are mixed and tested. The research laboratories are primarily used for training films and computer work, primarily on design. The building where the fuel is processed and experiments conducted is 10 meters underground and is constantly controlled by closed-circuit television cameras. The casing of the missile is manufactured by the mechanical industrial complex of defense industries, which is headed by Brigadier General Rahimi (sp). An individual by the name of Kiranir (?) also heads this section.

Now these are some details about the more technical aspects of the missile program and how advanced we have been so far. I'd like to now ask my colleague, Miss Samsami, to add a few words on the intentions of the Iranian regime and to sum up.

MS. SAMSAMI: Yes. To sum up, with considerable foreign assistance, the Mullahs have obtained medium-range missile capability and they hope to go to the production stage this year.

It is significant that the missile arsenal is divided into two sections, production and deployment. Production is supervised by the defense ministry, which is controlled and directed by the regime's president, Mohammed Khatami. Since Khatami's election, this production line has been vigorously pursued and significant advances made. The head of the missile production section as well as the military staff are from Revolutionary Guards. Missile deployment is handled by the Revolutionary Guards air force.

The question, of course, is why we are devoting such colossal resources -- money and effort -- to the quest for missiles. Despite whatever claims of so-called moderation you might be hearing of late, the medieval autocracy established by Khomeini have always viewed establishment of an Islamic empire with Tehran at its heart and its manifest destiny. Their strategy to achieve this ideal is to gain the upper hand in the regional balance of power, thereby ridding itself of the foreign influences which obstruct its export of fundamentalism.

The mullahs see two things as instrumental to the success of their plan. The first is the establishment of a so-called sister Islamic republic in a neighboring state, preferably Iraq. The second, which put them on a par with Israel, is the dual goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction and of producing medium-range missiles.

Clearly, Tehran has neither the intention nor the ability to moderate its behavior. Appeasement by the West will only provide the mullahs with more room to maneuver in pursuit of missile production. Firmness is the only means of deterring Khatami and the the clerical regime from the quest for an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Thank you.

MR. JAFARZADEH: Now we'd to open it for the questions you may have.


Q You mentioned considerable foreign assistance in this program, and specifically China and North Korea, but I notice the absence of any mention of Russia. Are the Russians helping them with the guidance system?

MR. JAFARAZADEH: I'm sorry, I forgot to ask you to introduce yourselves for the --

Q I'm -- (name inaudible) -- from AP.


The Russians have been providing assistance in a more general and broader sense, in different fields that could be directly or indirectly used for the missile system of the Iranian regime. The reason we emphasize on the role of North Korea particularly, as well as China, is that they are directly and very closely involved in this program. Had it not been for their assistance, this program could have not gotten to this stage.

In terms of providing missiles for the regime -- for instance, you know the regime had obtained the Scud missiles from North Korea, which has acted, especially Scud-E missiles, as model for producing this new Shahop III (sp) missile. They had also obtained Nodong I missiles from North Korea, as well as the training that was provided for the Guards corps personnel in North Korea and the direct presence of their experts continuously until now in Iran. That did not mean to rule out or to leave out, really, the assistance provided by the Russians.

Now, as to the guidance systems, whether on that specific thing they are providing assistance, I don't have any specifics on that.


Q I'm Carol Landry with Agence France-Presse. I can't help but notice that you're holding the news conference on the same day that President Khatami will be giving his interview to CNN. So are you concerned that the administration is softening its approach to Iran?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, first of all, the important thing is to see that -- whether there has been any shred of evidence of moderation from Teheran, or altering intentions, even alter their behavior. According to the information that is available in the past five, six months that Khatami has been in office and the facts produced by the old regime and their behavior and policy, Khatami is no different than any other clerics within the regime. He has been part of the clerical system since the onset. He was a minister of this regime for 10 years. He in fact belongs to one of the most radical factions within the regime, known as the Lion of Imam, which is known in this country for being involved in the taking of the American hostages in Teheran for 444 days.

Ever since he has taken office, there has been no change in the situation of human rights in Iran or easing up on the population. Two hundred people have been announced to be stoned or publicly hanged by the Iranian regime in 1997, most of them under Khatami. The regime forces have now started arresting women for wearing colorful dresses.

And Khatami has reiterated his animosity and protest to the peace process in the Middle East, to Israel. He has endorsed the death (decree ?) on Salman Rushdie. He has not even said a thing that would put him in a different category than other clerical leaders.

In the very same December 14 interview that he made in the press conference he had in Teheran, that he said he's willing to have talks with the American people -- which is nothing new; very similar statements were made by Khomeini himself and Rafsanjani -- he expressed very clearly that he's not intending to have dialogue with the United States government. They call the U.S. officials reactionaries.

In other words, what Khatami is doing for the regime is he is doing his own responsibility that was distributed within the regime. He speaks in somewhat of a softer tone but states the very same positions.

Khamenei, the religious leader of the regime, made it very clear in this past Friday prayer in Tehran, that he and other officials of the regime, including Khatami, have the same point of view regarding opening up dialogue with the United States. He did not attack Khatami; rather he attacked opening of dialogue with the United States. He said it's a distribution of responsibility. In other words, regardless of factional feuding that has existed in Iran for 19 years, there is no difference of view on key issues; such as export of terrorism, opposition to the peace process in the Middle East, their positions on their relations with the United States, and domestic repression. That's as far as the facts are concerned.

Other than that, I don't know about the position of the officials here. I guess that you have to ask them to see what they have to say. But this is what the facts speak out.


Q I have two questions.

One is could you provide some more information about the actual test of the missile that you spoke about? Was it strictly an engine test, or was it an actual launch of the missile?

And can you provide in a very general way, without compromising sources and methods obviously; can you describe in a general way how you're getting your information. Is it just from press reports?

I am Mark Brender (sp) with ABC News.


Now -- (adjusting the microphone) --

Q Hold on before you give that answer.

MR. JAFARZADEH: Yes. (Laughs.)

Now the source of our information, both regarding the information we provided today and all the other information we provided in the past on the nuclear activities of the regime, on the terrorist network of the regime, have been the internal -- from within the Iranian regime.

Some of the details, very details I have provided today have never been reported in any press or any media. I cannot go further on our sources, but I can only say that the sources are within the Iranian regime.

Now, as far as the test is concerned, I don't have further details on how extensive the test was, whether it was an actual and complete launch or a partial test, but the information that we have until now is that the missile was tested at least once. The engine valve was a problem that very recently they fixed it, and the regime's officials were very happy and jubilant that they were able to fix that engine problem, the engine valve problem, recently, and that's put them in this new stage of production of the missiles.

Q And when did the test take place?

MR. JAFARZADEH: I don't have a date for the test, but the sources basically said that it was recent. But I don't have like days or months on that.


Q Can you say how accurate the current guidance systems are that could be used with this system? Secondly -- well, go ahead on that first.

MR. JAFARZADEH: They were very happy with the prototype they had provided in terms of the accuracy. The information that we have basically suggests that the margin of error is less than four kilometers. That's the latest thing we had on the margin of error of the missile.

Q Who is supplying those guidance systems?

MR. JAFARZADEH: That I don't have.

Q And are these going to be mobile missiles or fixed launch missiles?

MR. JAFARZADEH: That I will have to check.

Q You said Russia is providing help in a general way. Are there any Russian technicians actually -- from your information, actually in any of these complexes providing any type of assistance?

MR. JAFARZADEH: In these complexes that I mentioned the information we have does not mention any Russian experts being present there. That does not rule out that they don't exist, it's only that we could not confirm that they physically existed in those complexes. The ones that we could confirm were the North Koreans and the Chinese in the complexes that I mentioned earlier. But on that one we can check.


Q Yes. I have a question on the Chinese assistance. Was there any difference before the Jiang Zemin visit to the United States and after the summit meeting? And are you sure that the Chinese technicians are still in Iran?

MR. JAFARZADEH: I heard the second part of your question, but I'm not sure whether I completely got the first part of your question. I'm sorry.

Q According to the information from Beijing, the Chinese side have promised the U.S. to stop the assistance to Iran in missile technology. Was there any difference between the assistance before his visit to the U.S. and after the visit?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, according to our information, the Chinese experts are still in Iran at those sites, and we have not detected any difference or change in terms of providing assistance by the Chinese ever since those promises have been made.

Yes, please. I'm sorry. Yes.

Q (Name off mike) -- with CNN. Do you think that the mullahs, the leadership in Iran, are aware of what the response would likely be if they ever launched a missile with nuclear or chemical capability, hostile -- in a hostile environment against another country?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, the whole purpose, basically, of pursuing very vigorously such a program, whether it's their missile program that we are talking about today or their nuclear program that they are in parallel, pursuing it very vigorously, is to give them the capability to exert their presence in the region.

For them, they see it very strategic, very vital for their survival. They argue it's key to the survival of the regime, to help the regime to overcome their internal crisis and, therefore, this way they can frighten the countries in the region as well as the Western countries. Don't forget, when the Iranian regime pursued the policy of terrorism, more important than hitting one or few individuals, the whole purpose was that -- to hold the foreign policy of other countries as hostage; the whole purpose is political. What they accomplished by terrorism was basically to be able to blackmail, or, by hostage-taking, to blackmail the Western countries.

In pursuing this missile program, they intend to frighten the countries in the region, as well as Western countries; to use that as a way to tone down pressure from Western countries. It is for this reason that it is very important that the sanctions, the policy of firmness, must be pursued as firmly as in the past. No opportunity should be provided to this regime; otherwise, they use it to their best advantage and further pursue their policy of procuring missiles.

Don't forget that these are the missiles that are capable of carrying chemical warheads, and the Iranian regime does have an extensive stockpile of chemical arsenal. And they are pursuing their nuclear programs very vigorously. So that's why it's very important that the pressure continues to be built up on the regime.

Q Don't you think, though, that they understand pretty well that if they ever launched a missile against Israel or some other country that the response could wipe out their country? Isn't that in the back of their minds somewhere, just watching? Wouldn't that temper their use of such a -- the potential for using that kind of weapon?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, their intent was to build this kind of power or threat, without a need to really launch them, to take those policies hostage; to force the regional countries to kowtow to Tehran, to soften their policies against Iran and to listen to them.

That's the whole purpose. That's the whole purpose behind the policy of exporting fundamentalism and terrorism. That's the whole purpose of pursuing these missile project that they're doing.

I am sorry -- (inaudible). Yes?

Q Sean Flynn (sp) of the Washington Reporter.


Q Isn't there -- Israeli officials repeatedly have warned Tehran that they will strike, either with missiles, nuclear weapons or long-range strike aircraft, if Iran continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. Isn't there an element in here somewhere of the Iranians' trying to defend themselves? Certainly not to write it off, but isn't there an element of self-defense if Iran doesn't have the capability to strike back at Israel, yet Israel has the capability to strike Iran hard? Isn't there some element here of the Iranians' trying to get a level of deterrence so that they can be struck, yet the gentleman from CNN mentioned they have no incentives to strike?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, as far as the Iranian regime is concerned; I mean, since their onset, the issue has not been self-defense for them. The issue, both in their official stated policies and in their behavior, is to attack the rest of the world, to export their backward mentality of fundamentalism to the Islamic countries, to send their hit teams to other countries, to eat even their own dissidents. So speaking of self-defense for this regime, it just doesn't match.

It's clearly a program intended to enhance the regime status to be able to further exert their hegemony. They are clear. They are openly speaking of Islamic empire, of a world global Islamic empire. They openly state that they don't recognize any international boundaries; that they consider themselves as the leaders of the whole Islamic world, if not (at the ?) next stage, the rest of the world. Those are the stated intentions and positions and actions of the Iranian regime's leaders.

Any other questions? (Pauses.) Okay, thank you very much for your participation.

MS. SANSAMI (?): (Inaudible.)

MR. JAFARZADEH: We will be available if you had further questions. MS. SANSAMI(?): (Inaudible.)

Q (Off mike) -- (one further question ?).

MR. JAFARZADEH: Oh, I am sorry. Yes?

Q Just one more question. I am sorry I am late. But the missile III (word inaudible). I'd like to ask a little off-subject question about Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, as specifically in Algeria.

I understand that Iran is training and offering all kinds of support for the GIA, which is involved in the slaughter of civilians in Algeria. Is this correct?

MR. JAFARZADEH: Well, the relationship of the Iranian regime with a number of fundamentalist and terrorist organizations around the world is nothing new. They have been openly supporting the FIS in Algeria, as well as other groups in the Middle East as well.

We have provided information in the past that top leaders of the regime had traveled to Algeria in the past, establishing contacts with those groups, or the leaders or officials of those groups have traveled to Teheran.

So without being specific on a certain action, I would say, generally, yes, they have; they have been supporting those kind of actions, as far as Algeria is concerned.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that. We're available if you have further questions.