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News Briefings

DoD News Briefing


Tuesday, July 18, 2000 - 1:38 p.m.EDT
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Q: Over the weekend, while you were on the trip, the Iranians successfully tested, apparently, a Shahab-3 missile. I just wanted to get your reaction to what this says about the state of their program, and any information about what countries you think are assisting Iran in their missile program.

Bacon: Well, we're very concerned about help they've been getting on a variety of programs, some from Russia, some, we believe, from China as well. And we've voiced our concern both to the governments of Russia and China about this, and we will continue to voice our concern about efforts that aid the proliferation of missiles.

This is a missile with a range of 800 or 900 miles, as I understand it. And it puts Iran in a position to strike concentrations of our troops in the Middle East, and also to strike other countries in the Middle East. It depends, of course, where the missile is launched from. Iran is a rather large country. It could also put Iran in a position to strike parts of Russia, depending on where the missile would be based.

We have tried to argue with the Russians, and many other countries, that this type of proliferation is dangerous not just to us, but possibly to other countries as well, and we will continue to make that point.

This test was successful, as best we can tell, and therefore, it was unlike a previous test that failed. I don't know what their testing program is, how many tests they need to have confidence in their system. But clearly, for them it's a success and it moves them closer to the day when they may feel they can deploy the Shahab-3 missile.

But we're worried about more than just this missile, we're worried about longer-range missiles that they apparently have on their drawing books right now; that would be the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 missile. And the Shahab-5 missile could have an intercontinental range and that, of course, would be worrisome.

There isn't any conceivable reason why Iran needs a missile of intercontinental range if it's worried about regional security issues. It already has, in the Shahab-3, a missile that should allow it to deter or intimidate, if that's its goal, its neighbors. So it's a little puzzling why they would want missiles of longer range, but apparently they are working on those. But we consider that -- the longer-range missile programs, of course, to be farther down the road than this one.

Yes?

Q: I'm sorry, you consider -- did I understand that? You consider the longer-range missile programs --

Bacon: Less developed. Farther away. Farther from completion.

Q: Oh, I thought you meant farther down in the process.

Bacon: No, I meant farther away.

Q: Right. I misunderstood, I'm sorry.

Bacon: Farther away in terms of time.

Q: So those are -- do you see those still strictly in the R&D stage or just on paper or do you see anything really happening with their longer range?

Bacon: Well, obviously, as they succeed with shorter-range missiles, it helps them in addressing programs to develop longer-range missiles as well. I don't want to get into details of where they stand on the other programs, but any successful test adds to a cumulative body of knowledge that helps them with their missile program generally.

Q: Can I just ask on sort of the same area? Now that Iraq is back testing an allowable shorter-range missile, the Al-Samoud program, do you think that that lends any concern about Iraq also going down the road of longer-range missiles?

Bacon: Certainly General Zinni, when he was the commander in chief of the Central Command, voiced concern that it positioned them to move quickly to longer-range missiles, if they chose to do so.

You're right, the missile they have been working on is allowed. Longer-range missiles would not be allowed.

Yes?

Q: Has the recent test of the Iranian missile reinforced DoD's commitment to fast, deployable theater missile defenses, such as the Patriot, PAC-3 or the THAAD, to getting those things out there as soon as possible?

Bacon: Yes. I mean, our commitment is the same as it was before this test because we knew that Iran was working on such a missile, as are other countries. So this remains a top priority matter, particularly for the regional commanders, the CINCs -- CINCs in Europe and the Pacific Command, Southern -- not so much the Southern Command, because we don't face that threat there, but clearly in Europe, the Central Command and the Pacific Command, we're worried about missile developments.