US Vice President Dick Cheney laid before Gulf rulers the latest US intelligence information, according to which Iran is in advanced negotiations for the purchase of hundreds of North Korea’s most advanced ballistic missiles, the Taepodong-2 which has a range of 5,000 miles (8,045 km).
He revealed to Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and UAE president, the Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan that on May 10, North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hyong was in Tehran and met with Iran’s First Vice President Parviz Davoodi.
The deal on offer was essentially this: Pyongyang is left with a stock of long-range ballistic missiles on its hands after reaching terms with the US to dismantle its nuclear program and halt ballistic missile development. North Korea proposes letting them go to Iran together with the technical instructions for their production. In return, Iran must forego the North Korean debt.
Since the 1990s, Tehran has supplied all N. Korea’s fuel needs at cut rates. Therefore, the debt is bound to be in the multibillion range.
After the visit, Davoodi said: “Tehran does not see any obstacles to developing ties with Pyongyang and is ready to offer its economic, infrastructural and technological achievements for North Korea’s progress and prosperity.”
Iran’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki added more cautiously: “It is necessary to remove some obstacles so that grounds for further cooperation between the two countries can be established.”
Cheney pointed to these statements as betraying the state of play: Iran, he said, has accepted the North Korean proposition in principle, but is squeezing them for more concessions:
The deal would violate Pyongyang’s commitment to dismantle
- Tehran wants to get hold of the missile production lines as well as the finished product. The North Koreans say this would violate their understandings with the United States, Russia, Japan and China. Tehran brushed this argument aside maintaining the deal per se was a violation, but so what? As Davooudi put it, “The era of arrogance and oppressing other nations is history. Victory belongs to freedom-loving and independent nations.”
- When the North Koreans offered instead to send over military engineers and technicians to build production lines according to the guidelines in the blueprints which Iran would acquire, the Iranian officials said it was something to think about but they were not satisfied. North Korea’s debt was large, they said, and the missiles alone could not be stretched to cover it all. They reminded the North Koreans that Iran had not only provided them with oil, but also let them use Iran’s Lut Desert test-site for test-firing their missiles.
- Iran also demands the attendance of Iranian engineers and experts when North Korea tests its new missile the SSN, which is based on the 1960s Russian design whose plans North Korea has acquired.
With a range of 5,000 km, the SSN-6 could hit American bases on Guam. At the end of April, Korea displayed its version of the missile on a parade.
The US Vice President said that, according to US intelligence sources, the Iran-North Korean negotiations are well advanced. They began in secret five months ago when North Korea’s second-in-command Kim Yong Nam met with Iran’s Vice Foreign Minister Mahdi Safari. The deal is estimated to be near consummation and the first deliveries of the new ballistic missiles due in August.
Iran is planning to circumvent the blockade imposed by American and NATO warships in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea by dismantling the missiles and having them ferried in small segments by Chinese airplanes and trains via Central Asia.
Cheney hoped to achieve two objectives by putting this card on the table.
One, to alert the Gulf nations to the menace of Iran’s accumulating armory. With the acquisition of North Korean missiles, Iran will be able to attack American and Israeli targets in the Middle East while having enough missiles to spare for simultaneous strikes on Gulf objectives.
Two, to persuade Gulf rulers to keep their distance from Tehran and discourage them from bidding for Iran’s friendship, at the expense of their ties with Washington.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, neither the UAE nor the Saudi rulers were dismayed by Cheney’s tidings. He failed to come away with any promises of a change in their two-track policies of relying on US military might for their security, while fostering ties with Tehran as extra insurance.