Iran can target missile at US, Europe in less than eight years: US
by P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iran may have a long range missile capable of striking the United States and Europe in less than eight years, a senior State Department official said Thursday.
John Rood, the assistant secretary of state for international security and non proliferation, said the weapon could be wholly obtained from North Korea, which had provided Iran ballistic missiles previously.
The American intelligence community has estimated that Tehran, which has defied UN sanctions to pursue a sensitive nuclear program, could develop long-range missiles capable of reaching all of Europe and the United States before 2015 if it chooses to do so, he said.
"Our intelligence estimates are based on projections of when Iran could acquire this capability on its own, perhaps with some foreign assistance. A key determinant how rapidly Iran might progress of course would be that foreign assistance," Rood told a Congressional hearing.
"There is also the possibility that Iran could procure a completed system from North Korea as it had done in the past," he said when asked whether Iran could have such missile capability even way before 2015.
"North Korea possesses ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) range missiles, it is certainly possible that another sale like that could occur in the future," he said.
"But that would potentially move the date up further beyond 2015 and depending on the amount of foreign assistance Iran might receive, it might also see that time frame move up," Rood said.
Daniel Fried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said Iran already possessed hundreds of medium range Shahab-3 and short-range ballistic missiles and was developing follow-on medium range systems capable of reaching targets in southeast Europe.
The Islamic republic also plans to develop space launch vehicles, which Fried said was "cause for some concern" given the similarities between such technology and that found in longer-range ballistic missiles.
The United States is pushing for a missile defense shield plan, with facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, to thwart a potential missile threat from Iran on Europe and the United States.
"The goal is to field a system that is capable of enhancing protection of the United States that also has the benefit of protecting Europe," Fried said. "The threat is real and the system we are proposing is practical."
According to Fried, tests show that the planned missile defense system is effective.
Since 2001, the Missile Defense Agency has had 27 successful "hit-to-kill intercepts" out of 35, he said.
"Fifteen of the last 16 flight tests have been successful," he said.
North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile can already reach parts of the United States and is capable of carrying a nuclear payload, the US military says.
Last summer, Washington activated its fledgling missile defense system for the first time in response to North Korean missile launch preparations.
But the North Korean Taepodong-2 missile failed shortly after the July 4 launch and no US interceptor missile was launched as a result.
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