In the same 48-hour time frame, North Korea and Iran both managed to rattle the West by successfully testing advanced missiles. Thursday, July 27, Tehran launched a "Simorgh" rocket, which is capable of carrying a 250-kg satellite into space. The next day, Pyongyang test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile, an improved version of the Hwasong 14, first tested three weeks earlier.
President Donald Trump was discovering that sanctions are no deterrent
The depth of the dismay in the West may explain why none of the experts dared mention the even more troubling fact which has been known for some time: Iran and North Korea are longstanding partners in their long-range missile programs. Each maintains experts at the other’s development facilities.
On July 28, the Hwasong 14 flew 47 minutes over a distance of 3,724km before dropping into the Sea of Japan. Kim Jong-un boasted: “The test confirmed that all the US mainland is within striking range,” confirming the new estimate that North Korea’s latest ICBMs can now reach major American cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.
That was his delighted response to the latest round of US sanctions.
Iran was less forthcoming about its latest test, without however neglecting to underline its success. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources confirm that Iran’s success was no less impressive than North Korea’s – and just as dangerous. The Simorgh, aka Safir-3, is the fruit of years of Iranian development and many failed tests on the way to achieving a satellite-carrying rocket as the basis for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.
US military sources tried to present the Iranian test as another flop, only admitting at length that “the only thing we know for sure is that no satellite was put into orbit.” Like the Americans with regard to Iran, Russian military sources tried play down the North Korean success by tossing it off as an ordinary, medium-range ballistic missile.
But the fact is that Iran was not trying this time to put a satellite in orbit. Its objective, for which a big step was taken forward, was to perfect the technology for building missiles able to carry small nuclear warheads, as well as carriers for boosting military and spy satellites into space.
Tehran was extremely cagey with details about its success. The Safir-2, built around components of the North Korean BM-25 ballistic missile, which too derived from the Soviet R-27 fired from submarines, was able to attain an estimated range of 3,000-4,000km. The Simorgh or Safir-3 tested this week was an advanced version of its predecessor. The two-stage version, powered by solid fuel, is believed to have an improved range of 7,500km.
Two years ago, when Iran placed an imaging rocket into orbit during February 2015, Israeli rocket experts established that these rockets were also capable of striking any point that Iran may chose. Tehran was therefore well ahead of Pyongyang in its ability to stage a missile attack on the United States mainland – except that this discovery was eclipsed at the time by the Iranian nuclear negotiations nearing conclusion with six world powers, led by the United States.
President Barack Obama, hell bent on a deal, gave in to Tehran’s demand to leave its missile program out of the accord. Iran was left free to pursue its ballistic missile program unchecked by international law up until now.
Therefore, when on Thursday, the US Senate slapped sanctions on Iran as punishment for its missile tests, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran was formally within its rights Saturday in affirming “Iran’s inalienable right” to develop missiles “in compliance with its international obligations.”
In another event tied to Iran’s missiles, Saudi Arabia Thursday, July 26, announced the interception of “a ballistic missile launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents against the holy city of Mecca.” The defense ministry in Riyadh said the missile had been shot down some 69km away from Mecca, causing no damage or casualties.
The Saudis have for some months accused Iran of supplying the Yemeni insurgents with Fatteh-110 missiles for targeting Saudi cities, including the capital, Riyadh. They had expected President Donald Trump to hit back at Iran. However, other than reprimanding Tehran for hostile action against the “US partner Saudi Arabia,” no tangible US action was forthcoming – only fresh sanctions, which don’t cut much ice in Tehran or Pyongyang.
Donald Trump’s six-month presidency is clearly under siege. On top of the bucketfuls of trouble landing on his head at home, he is being pushed against a wall by America’s enemies in two world regions – the Far East and the Middle East.