Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
Iran and Iraq: Michael Eisenstadt,
Kenneth Katzman, Kenneth Timmerman and
March 23, 1998
On March 23, 1998, System Planning Corporation hosted a roundtable
discussion on Iran and Iraq for the Commission to Assess the Ballistic
Missile Threat to the United States. SPC assembled four prominent experts
on Iraqi and Iranian ballistic missile capabilities in an unclassified
forum: Michael Eisenstadt, Kenneth Katzman, Kenneth Timmerman, and Seth
Carus. This paper summarizes their conclusions and highlights key areas of
consensus and disagreement.
Iraqi Missile Development after the Gulf War
All of the participants asserted that Iraq could quickly reconstitute its
long-range ballistic missile programs if UNSCOM's inspection and monitoring
regime were to end, and perhaps produce a missile of proscribed range
within perhaps a year by clustering or stacking missiles currently in its
inventory, or by resuming production of the al-Husayn. In addition, Iraq's
efforts could be expedited if it gains access to the same type of ballistic
missile components as it did prior to the Gulf War from nations like
Iraq is engaging in missile research and development activity that is
prohibited by the UN sanctions, despite the ongoing inspection regime. Iraq
is allowed to retain and continue producing missiles with ranges under 150
km (93 miles) and has thus been able to keep its missile research
infrastructure intact. As noted in a US Government White Paper, UNSCOM has
discovered evidence that Iraq has continued long range missile research
under the guise of its short range missile programs that are compliant with
UN regulations. Iraq has conducted computer design studies of missiles with
proscribed ranges since the Gulf War (missiles with ranges of several
thousand kilometers) and has continued to procure components for such
missiles, including, gyroscopes from scrapped Russian IRBMs in 1995.
Although Katzman stated that it may be difficult to determine a time frame
for Iraq to actually produce a long range missile capable of hitting
Western Europe, he did conclude that Iraq's Tammuz-1 (a missile which Iraq
claimed to have produced with a range of 2000 km prior to the Gulf War)
could pose a significant threat "very soon" if this program was as far
along as Iraq claimed. If, however, Iraq's claims were exaggerated, it
might take Iraq several years after its programs resumed to produce a
working missile capable of reaching beyond the Middle East.
Timmerman presented the most adamant conclusions to the Commission. He
asserted that West has continuously underestimated Iraq's technical skills,
scientific achievements, and willingness to re-acquire a long range
ballistic missile capability. He asserted that Iraq employs tens of
thousands of Western trained engineers who continue to work on developing
new weapons. Timmerman also asserted that Iraq can develop an IRBM without
testing it as they have the manpower, skills and make-do with what they
Current Missile Capabilities
Prior to the Gulf War, the backbone of Iraq's ballistic missile force
consisted of the al-Husayn missile, an extended range variant of the Soviet
Scud-B. Before the Gulf War, the missile was built by cannibalizing
Scud-B's. By the time of the Gulf War, Iraq was able to produce most of the
missile's components indigenously, including warheads, airframes and
Potential Sources of Concern: The Al-Abbas and Badr 2000
Near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq experimented with the al-Abbas, a
longer range and improved version of the al-Husayn. The missile was
originally reported to have a range of 900-950 km (although Iraq later
admitted that its range was only 800 km), and a payload of about 300 kg,
sixty percent of the al-Husayn. Although the missile was allegedly tested
in 1988, it was never produced on a significant scale and was never used
against Iran. Nevertheless, Iraq almost surely possesses all of the
information and technical know-how associated with the missile's design.
All of the roundtable participants also discussed Iraq's Badr 2000 program.
This missile is a two stage solid fuel missile capable of carrying a 2000
km warhead to a range of 1000 km. This program originated as the Condor II
program that the Iraqis developed in conjunction with Egypt and Argentina.
Timmerman, however, stated that many major European aerospace firms were
contributing to the Badr 2000 program when Egypt and Argentina withdrew.
After Egypt withdrew from the program in 1988 and Argentina withdrew in
1989, Iraq continued development of the program by itself. The missile was
never tested, and its appears that UNSCOM effectively ended the Badr 2000
program. Again, despite the presence of UNSCOM inspectors, Iraq most likely
retains information and know-how associated with the missile's design.
In addition to the above two programs, UNSCOM also discovered several
missile propulsion systems, such as multistage and clustered-engine
designs, that were designed for missiles with ranges of up to 3000 km. None
of the Pre-Gulf literature on Iraq's missile programs, nor any of Iraq's
pre-war claims, spoke of a missile of that range.
WMD Capabilities and Delivery Systems
Michael Eisenstadt's presentation focused considerably on Iraq's WMD
capabilities, particularly its ability to deliver a Chemical, Biological or
Nuclear warhead by ballistic missile.
Eisenstadt concluded that Iraq is still believed to possess a small
stockpile of lethal agents, munitions and precursor chemicalsthat provide
it with the ability to inflict massive casualties on an unprotected
civilian population, though it may not have sufficient quantities of
chemical munitions for chemical use. The US government, however, believes
that if UNSCOM's inspections were to end, Iraq could resume production of
mustard agents in weeks, sarin within months and VX within 2-3 years.
Iraq's first generation of CW warhead consisted of converted Scud-B
warheads. This could be problematic because UNSCOM is unable to account for
between 45 and 75 al-Husayn warheads, despite assurances from Iraq that the
warheads were destroyed.
Iraq probably retains agent seed stocks, growth media, production equipment
and munitions for developing biological weapons, and almost certainly has
sufficient quantities of biological agents on hand to cause massive
casualties among civilians. On the one hand, some UN inspectors believe
that Iraq could still be developing biological agents under the nose of
UNSCOM inspection teams. On the other hand, however, if inspections were
cease, and Iraq is not developing such agents, Iraq could resume the
production of such agents in a matter of days.
Iraq is believed to have used the same modified al-Husayn used in its CW
program as its first generation BW delivery system. These warheads,
however, could be only marginally effective in disseminating BW agents than
CW agents because the explosive booster charge would have killed many of
the pathogens during dissemination. If, however, Iraq has succeeded since
the Gulf War in acquiring and fitting barometric or radar proximity fuses
to its surviving al-Husayn missile warheads, the warhead could be capable
of disseminating its BW payload overhead before impacting the
ground-allowing for a more effective dissemination of the agent. Iraq may
have conducted tests of this fusing system under the nose of the UN
inspection teams by fitting the fusing arrangement on one of its missiles
with less than a 150 km range.
Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq possessed a workable bomb design, and bomb
components. Although UNSCOM may have dismantled the majority of Iraq's
nuclear weapons program, the nation still possesses experienced scientists
and technicians who continue to conduct computer studies and simulations
with little chance of detection.
Eisenstadt concludes that because of this know-how, if Iraq were to acquire
fissile material form abroad, it could possibly produce an operational
nuclear device within possibly a year, even despite UN inspections. It is
not clear, however, if such a device is small and reliable enough to be
delivered by ballistic missile.
Iranian Missile Programs and International Assistance
All of the roundtable participants agreed that Iran's ballistic missile
programs have been greatly aided by assistance from Russia. Russia has
supplied components and equipment that Iran could not acquire elsewhere, in
addition to technical and scientific support staff. This assistance has
helped Iran's missile programs overcome a number of key bottlenecks.
Ken Katzman asserted that in the long run, Russian training could be the
key factor in making Iran self-sufficient in missile production. It could
provide fundamental support for system integration and project management,
two areas that have been extremely problematic for Iran's ballistic missile
programs. In addition to recognizing the importance of Russian assistance,
the roundtable participants all asserted that China and North Korea have
provided Iran with ballistic missile technology and components in the past,
and that the United States should not count out future assistance.
Iran's Current Ballistic Missile Capabilities
The backbone of Iran's strategic missile forces consist of between 200 and
300 Scud B and C missiles, with ranges of 320 km and 500 km respectively.
These missiles are armed with conventional (and perhaps chemical) warheads,
are mounted on 10 to 15 mobile launchers, and can strike population centers
throughout Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf Arab States.
In addition to its Scud's, Iran has obtained Chinese CSS-8 missiles. Iran
signed a contract in 1989 for approximately 200 of these missiles. An
unknown amount have been delivered. These are SA-2 surface to air missiles
that have been modified for use against ground targets. This missiles could
ultimately become extremely effective in a future war against Iraq,
especially since they have the capability to strike major Iraqi population
centers near the Iranian border.
The Nodong -1
Iran funded the development of North Korea's Nodong-1 missile. With its
reported range of 1300 km, the missile is capable of reaching Israel from
Iran. Reports, however, suggest that the Nodong-1 program has been plagued
by numerous technical and financial problems. The missile has been tested
only once in May 1993 and only a small number of systems (ten mobile
launchers with missiles) have been produced by North Korea and fielded with
its own forces. The participants agreed that Iran has never taken
possession of the missile. Iran may have, however, received much of the
missile's technology as compensation for its funding.
Shehab-3 and Shehab-4
In recent years, Iran has assembled Scud-C missiles acquired in kit from
North Korea and is reportedly building two hybrid liquid-fueled systems
with significant help from Russia: the Shehab-3 and Shehab-4.
The participants agreed that the Shehab-3 will be based on North Korea's
Nodong-1. The missile will have a range of approximately 1,300 km, and will
be able to carry a payload of 1,650 pounds. According to US and Israeli
press sources, Iran has conducted between 6-8 static ground tests of the
missile's engine, thus indicating that the work has gone beyond the design
stage. Iran may conduct a test flight later this year or next year. The
Shehab-4 is based on the design of the Soviet SS-4. It will have a larger
range of 1,240 miles and can carry a larger payload of 2,200 pounds.
Where the Participants Stand: Deployment Date of the Shehab-3 and -4
Although the round table participants agreed that Russia was playing a key
role in the development of Iran's ballistic missile programs, and that Iran
was developing the Shehab-3 and Shehab-4, there was considerable debate
between Timmerman and Carus regarding possible deployment dates for these
On the one-hand, Ken Timmerman asserted that the West had underestimated
Iran's progress on the Shehab-3. He asserted that Iran will deploy the
Shehab-3 within the next 18 months, and thus bring Israel, Turkey and Saudi
Arabia into range for the first time. Timmerman insisted that the Iranians
had developed the missile with considerable speed (approximately 5 years
from the initial Nodong agreement with North Korea to the anticipated test
launch of a production missile later this year) and therefore have made
considerable progress on the entire program.
On the other hand, Seth Carus argued that it will be nearly impossible for
Iran to deploy the Shehab-3 in the next two years. He stated that although
Russian assistance has greatly aided Iran's ballistic missile capabilities,
Iran still does not have the ability to integrate all of the Shehab-3's
systems and thus put together a fireable missile. Based on Iran's level of
technical expertise, however, it may develop this integration ability
sometime in the future.