The international bodies supervising the proliferation of ballistic missiles to third-world countries have gone bankrupt. From now on, only resolve and close cooperation between the United States and Europe can stop Iran and other Middle East states from acquiring missiles, whose range could reach any part of Israel. The problem is that the chances for real cooperation are quite slim.
This is the main conclusion of an international conference on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction held in Germany last week. There was a great deal of symbolism in the site selected for the conference, held under the auspices of the German Foreign Ministry, Hamburg University and Pugwash - Cecilienhof Castle in the town of Potsdam, near Berlin. This is where the Potsdam Conference was held in July, 1945, when the leaders of the U.S., the USSR and Britain tried to demarcate the border of what Churchill was to call shortly afterward "the iron curtain."
The conference took place near the room in which Stalin, Truman and Churchill (who was later replaced by Clement Attlee) conducted tough negotiations on the division of Germany and setting Poland's borders. Last week's debates made it clear that in the matter of WMDs missile proliferation, despite the end of the cold war, the world is still divided between East and West.
A brilliant analysis, challenging the concept of most experts in the field, was presented by Professor Robert Schmucker, a German missiles scientist. Examining North Korea and Iran's missile technological development plans, Schmucker established that all the assumptions about these two states' success in achieving an independent manufacturing capability for long-range missiles are groundless. He claims that these two missile programs are based on imported technology from Russia and China. The North Koreans did not develop the Nodong missile, whose reported range is 1,300 kilometers, but instead purchased a Russian missile - R-17 or R-19 - improved it with Chinese assistance and gave it a North Korean name. The Iranians did not develop the Shihab 3 either, but bought from North Korea the missile the latter had purchased from Russia, and gave it an Iranian name.
Schmucker bases his conclusion, among other things, on the small number of experiments the North Koreans and Iranians carried out on these missiles. He concludes that without massive Russian and Chinese aid, there is no future for the missile programs of both these states.
If Schmucker is right, then the focus of the efforts to prevent missile proliferation must change. No more concentrating only on pressuring Iran and North Korea. The focus must be shifted to applying pressure on Russia and China. Only the agreement of presidents Putin and Hu Jintao to stop the assistance and technology transfer could significantly curtail North Korea's and - as a result - Iran's program.
Stopping, or at least slowing down, Iran's arming itself with long-range missiles has far reaching repercussions vis-a-vis Israel as well. The experts who analyzed the Iranian missile program have reached the conclusion that it intends to equip the Shihab 3 with a nuclear war head. They found an almost total resemblance between the size and shape of the Iranian warhead to the Scud-B developed by the Soviets. The combination of an ambitious missile program and nuclear weapons, on which the Iranians are laboring, may pose a threat to Israel that would lead to a complete change of the power balance and stability in the Middle East.
Therefore, if Schmucker's theory is correct and the Iranians cannot develop on their own a missile whose range exceeds 1,100 km (the range to Israel), then stopping the technology and equipment spill from Russia and China into North Korea and Iran would also put off the Iranian threat to Israel. The problem is that urgent action must be taken, because the transfer of missiles and technology to Iran is continuing in the meantime, and it is possible that in the not-so-distant future Iran will have enough missiles to create a strategic threat to Israel.
Examining the international bodies' attempt to prevent the missile technology spill, and analyzing the activity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), leaves no room for hope that international pressure will stop the cooperation between Russia and China on the one hand, and Iran and North Korea on the other. The problem is that the leaders of Europe are still not convinced that time is running out and that they must act swiftly and resolutely. They believe that it is possible to persuade Iran to stop developing nuclear arms in diplomatic ways.
The agreement they reached with Iran to suspend the uranium enrichment will not necessarily put an end to the Iranian program. They are ignoring Russia and China's part in helping Iran for the meantime, and the Iranian missile development program is not even on their agenda.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is standing alone as a barrier, albeit a penetrable one, in the face of Iran's attempts to equip itself with long-range missiles and nuclear arms. Sadly, this is not enough, and in the end Israel might find itself facing a nuclear Iran.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now