Surprise: Watchdog Group Discovers Secret Iranian Missile Site Hidden in Remote Desert Location

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Posted: May 30, 2018 10:45 AM
Surprise: Watchdog Group Discovers Secret Iranian Missile Site Hidden in Remote Desert Location

This story broke before the long weekend, but because the corresponding news cycle was fraught screaming about NFL anthem kneeling regulations, it largely got lost in the culture war cacophony.  One of the fundamental flaws of the Iran nuclear deal -- from which President Trump has withdrawn the United States, correctly, in my view -- is that the regime in Tehran simply is not a reliable partner.  Even if they were to technically abide by every one of the West's temporary restrictions (it must be noted that they have not done so scrupulously, and provably lied from the very beginning), the Iranians would emerge from their decade-plus stay in the global penalty box as a cash-flush threshold nuclear-armed power, thanks to the accord's extraordinary and lopsided concessions.  

President Obama has effectively admitted as much, just as he's allowed that the regime has almost certainly exploited its new financial windfall to finance terrorism, and has breached the "spirit" of the agreement through its ongoing pursuit of technology to deliver the nuclear weapons they continue to covet.  And now we can add even more clandestine treachery to the rap sheet, via the New York Times:

When an explosion nearly razed Iran’s long-range missile research facility in 2011 — and killed the military scientist who ran it — many Western intelligence analysts viewed it as devastating to Tehran’s technological ambitions. Since then, there has been little indication of Iranian work on a missile that could reach significantly beyond the Middle East, and Iranian leaders have said they do not intend to build one. So, this spring, when a team of California-based weapons researchers reviewed new Iranian state TV programs glorifying the military scientist, they expected a history lesson with, at most, new details on a long-dormant program. Instead, they stumbled on a series of clues that led them to a startling conclusion: Shortly before his death, the scientist, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, oversaw the development of a secret, second facility in the remote Iranian desert that, they say, is operating to this day...

For weeks, the researchers picked through satellite photos of the facility. They found, they say, that work on the site now appears to focus on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, and is often conducted under cover of night. It is possible that the facility is developing only medium-range missiles, which Iran already possesses, or perhaps an unusually sophisticated space program...But an analysis of structures and ground markings at the facility strongly suggests, though does not prove, that it is developing the technology for long-range missiles, the researchers say...If completed, [an Iranian long range missile program] could threaten Europe and potentially the United States...Five outside experts who independently reviewed the findings agreed that there was compelling evidence that Iran is developing long-range missile technology.

The online version of the Times' story links to this 2017 report in which Iranian leaders are quoted swearing up and down that they had no interest in long-range missile technology: "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country will not develop ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 2,000 kilometers, reinforcing prior statements by officials and military leaders about missile range limitations," it reads. This regime does not tell the truth.  More:

[United Nations] Resolution 2231 only “called” on Iran to refrain from ballistic missile activities, including development and testing, there is a clear prohibition on transfers or exports of ballistic missiles and related technologies without advance approval from the UN Security Council. A similar process is required for a range of armaments. Yet, a U.S. statement tying a missile fired on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Iran raises concerns that Iran may have violated the restriction prohibiting transfers. The Saudi military intercepted a missile from Yemen targeted at Riyadh’s international airport on Nov. 4. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigan, head of U.S. Air Force Central Command in Qatar, said on Nov. 10 that there have been Iranian markings on missiles used by the Houthis against Saudi and Saudi-backed forces in the war in Yemen. He said the markings “connect the dots to Iran.” Other countries, including Saudi Arabia and France, also linked the missile to Iran in earlier statements.

Again, Iran is either directly violating international law, or at least thumbing its nose at the clear "spirit" of the international nuclear pact to which it has ostensibly agreed. Defenders of that deal will eagerly point to this detail: "Such a program would not violate the international deal intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."  It's true: In a major eleventh-hour giveaway to Tehran, the Obama administration caved to Iranian demands that the West also ease sanctions against its illicit ballistic missiles program, and lift the existing international weapons embargo.  The fact that the discovery of a (growing) secret desert facility designed for the development of long-range missiles (the pursuit of which Iranian leaders have denied), largely operating in the dark of night, would not constitute a violation of the Iran deal is not a compelling defense of the Iran deal.  It is a devastating indictment of it.  

Speaking of which, one word that does not appear anywhere in the New York Times piece (which is worth a thorough read for a summary of multiple incriminating details) is "inspections."  It may be too late by now, but shouldn't the West be able to gain virtually instant access to this compound to determine its purpose and examine its progress?  Maybe not.  For all of the "echo chamber's" bragging about robust inspections, military sites are off limits, according to the Iranians.  And as the deal makes clear, Iran is in the driver's seat, happy to exploit the rest of the vaunted "international community" desperation to maintain their precious agreement.  Fortunately, the Trump administration has not been nearly as enthralled with this reckless legacy project.  In case you missed it, I'll leave you with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's forceful speech on Iran's path forward from last week -- with five key takeaways from the address enumerated in a Jerusalem Post column:


Editor's Note: The satellite image attached to this post is via the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.