The longstanding connection between the Iranian and North Korean missile programs has the Israeli security establishment cautiously watching the developments in the communist nation. This weekend’s test has Israeli analysts examining the launch for insight into Iran’s capabilities and looking for a response.
“Concern is increasing, seeing how everyone knows that North Korea is the main provider of missiles to Syria and Iran. This means that every technological advance could be disseminated elsewhere,” said Tal Inbar, deputy director of the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Studies. “Of course, this is disturbing, because a missile of this kind has a range of thousands of [miles], and this is an irresponsible regime with nuclear capabilities and an irrational leadership.”
Intelligence reports suggest Iran’s missiles are more or less copies of those used by North Korea. Iran’s long-range Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 missiles are reportedly based on the Taepodong-2 missile, the type of missile North Korea tested over the weekend.
Analysts also see strong similarities between the first stage of the North Korean missile and Iran’s Safir-2 missile.
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Experts, however, say Iran has moved beyond the North Korean-developed technology and has achieved technological independence in the area of missile development.
Mr. Inbar said he believed North Korea’s claim it had attempted to launch a satellite into orbit, rather than test a ballistic missile. However, he said the technology needed to launch a satellite was identical to that used in an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The fact North Korea has not released any pictures or video of the launch could be cause for suspicion.
Reports suggest the North Korean missile failed during launch, which, coupled with prior North Korean failures, has led many analysts around the globe to question the communist nation’s capabilities.
Western anger, particularly that of Japan, South Korea and the United States, primarily stems from a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution banning such launches.
Despite the angst over the launch, Israel remains confident it has the ability to protect itself from the Iranian variants of the North Korean missiles.
“This is exactly what the Arrow missile system is designed for,” said a senior security source, and stressed that the Arrow anti-missile system can destroy a missile that comes apart in three stages and is geared to evading aerial defense systems.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org