Tehran Weighs Outsourcing Its Arms Industries to Sudan and Gaza
In a confidential report submitted last week to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's National Security Council stresses the need to urgently upgrade Iran's deterrent and defensive strength in readiness for a potential Israeli or US strike against its nuclear facilities.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources have obtained exclusive access to this 148-page report plus a 4-page preface. It offers three key recommendations, each amply elucidated with precedents and forecasts:
Iran must accompany its nuclear progress (about which more in the opening article on US preparations for direct talks) by increased spending on building missiles. Top priority must be given to bringing to the operational stage the Kavoshgar-5 ("Explorer-5") missile, which has a 6000-km range able to reaching any Western European capital.
This missile was to have been test-fired in September after it failed its first test in 2011. But although four months have elapsed, nothing has been heard from Tehran about this weapon. Several Western experts predict that a Kavoshgar-5 test may be staged during the direct talks scheduled begin with the United States at the end of this week.
- More money and scientific resources must be appropriated for developing sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles, drones.
The technology and manufacturing plants for sophisticated drones should be transferred to Gaza and Sudan – not Lebanon.
This process had already begun before Israel’s Gaza operation Nov. 14-21). An Israeli military spokesman reported on Nov. 16, the destruction of a Hamas program for building and launching drone aircraft.
A black-and-white video clip released by the IDF to Twitter showed an Israeli air strike targeting a Hamas drone that was being tested in the southern Gaza area of Khan Younis in Gaza. It was shown over the caption: “This is what the program once looked like.”
Iran can’t match US, Israeli hi-tech fighter aircraft
The Iranian report concludes that the national aircraft industry will not – even in the long term – be able to produce high-quality fighter aircraft capable of taking on American or Israeli air force war fleets. Neither would Russian or Chinese warplanes come up to the standards of US aviation technology.
Therefore, Tehran’s only remaining option is to produce a wide array of missiles of varying ranges as their preferred weapon – both for offensive and deterrent functions. Efforts must be made to enlarge their warheads as well as extending their ranges, said the report.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and Iranian sources comment that for years Iran has been planning a missile with a range of 10,000-km able to reach the East Coast of America. But the international arms embargo has kept the necessary high-powered engines out of Tehran’s hands.
Money is also short. While the authors of the report recommend a 30-percent hike in the missile budget, the industry’s cash flow has shrunk as a result of declining oil revenues.
They recommend recruiting rocket scientists from South American countries who graduated from American universities. Iran has exhausted the specialist manpower resources of Russia and the former Soviet republics and their knowledge is outdated. Many would be afraid to work in the Islamic Republic because of its international disrepute and the assassinations of rocket scientists employed in Iran for which the Israeli Mossad was held responsible. In any case, Iran can no longer afford the huge salaries demanded for their services.
Friendly Hugo Chavez is Iran’s next best bet
Their best bet, say the National Security Council writers, is to ask Venezuela’s friendly Hugo Chavez to help headhunt scientists for Iran’s missile industry and let Iran establish a secret military industrial complex in Caracas.
In drone technology, Iran lags behind Israel and other countries, they say, and must double its spending to hurry along the development of unmanned aircraft with attack and bombing capabilities and keep up with the world trend.
The capture of the American RQ170 Sentinel last year gave it a big push forward. Iranian engineering teams dismantled the drone and studied all its working components, with particular attention to the external paint which made it invisible to radar, the low-fuel consumption engine and its ability to home in on targets and transmit images to home base via satellite.
Plans to transfer hi-tech drone production to Lebanon have fallen by the wayside because of rising opposition to Hizballah’s massive weapons stocks. While its launch of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace won Hizballah propaganda points and boosted Iran’s military deterrence, it also provoked criticism in Lebanon and other Arab countries which accused Hizballah of acting as the military arm of a foreign state, the foe of Sunni Muslims, at a time when the inter-denominational contest is intensifying.
Hizballah faces harsh criticism at home
The day the report was presented to Khamenei, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman harshly accused Hizballah of provocative conduct and demanded an explanation for the launching of an Iranian drone by a Lebanese entity from sovereign Lebanese soil.
The Iranian Security Council’s report was revised and updated after the Israel-Hamas confrontation in the Gaza Strip with an added forecast: President Mohamed Morsi can expect to come under heavy pressure to put a stop to Iranian’s supply routes of arms to Sinai and the Gaza Strip, said the Iranian authors.
Israel is insisting on a concentrated effort to shut these routes down as the price for accepting a ceasefire. Even if partly successful, this effort will sharply reduce the flow of Iranian supplies to the Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
This setback comes on top of another negative prediction contained in the Iranian report: Impending US and Turkish action to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.
The two potential occurrences would deal a major setback to Iran’s strategic standing in the region.
Building a drone industry in Gaza
The Security Council tacticians propose entrusting the Gaza "resistance" organization, led by the Iranian proxy, Islamic Jihad, with home production of drones – in the first stage with locally available materials.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that Iran has already smuggled some drone engines into the Gaza Strip and is now preparing a shipment of bigger and more powerful engines.
A drone infiltration of Israeli air space from Gaza would be an even greater propaganda and psychological coup than the drone launched by Hizballah from Lebanon. It would also cause the Israeli government and IDF even greater embarrassment and act as a factor of deterrence.
According to the report, young Palestinians who graduated from Jordanian and European universities and received further training with Hizballah in Lebanon are already in Gaza and available for the drone project -although they need further training.
Iranian missile improvements for eluding Iron Dome
On Saturday, November 24, two days after the ceasefire went into effect, three Iranian rocket scientists managed to reach the Gaza Strip from their regular posts in Lebanon with false identities and passports. Three more are on the way.
The first three, according to debkafile's military sources, will train Islamic Jihad activists in the use of advanced missiles under their leader Ramadan Salah, while the next three will be attached to Hamas missile units.
They will be studying ways of improving the Iranian rockets present in the Gaza armory and making them more accurate and better able to elude Israel's Iron Dome missile defense batteries.
The rockets were smuggled into Gaza in pieces and fitted together on arrival in Gaza. The Iranian experts will try and find out if the attached wings for steering the missiles were damaged before launching. Even slight damage would throw them off course.
The Iranian experts will also supervise local production of new and improved launchers for upgrading the rocket’s targeting accuracy.
Our military sources report that Tehran is anxiously analyzing the Iron Dome’s performance in the light of the numbers it shot down and points of interception. This information is needed for relaying to Hizballah for its planned rocket war against Israel.
Iranian rocket engineers are thinking in terms of fitting missiles manufactured in Iran with electronic devices for jamming the Israel weapon’s radar although this is hardly feasible.