Russian Assistance to Iran's missile programs


Testimony on H.R. 1883, Iran Nonproliferation Act

before Congressman Dana Rohrabacher


Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the

Committee on Science

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC

July 13, 1999


by Kenneth R. Timmerman

President, Middle East Data Project, Inc.


My name is Kenneth R. Timmerman, and I am the director of the Middle East Data Project, an independent consulting group that specializes in analyzing strategic trade. We also publish a monthly investigative newsletter, The Iran Brief.

The public record of Russian government-sponsored transfers of missile technology to Iran is dense. In the 13-page chronology I have appended to my testimony, members can see just how much we know about this very grave threat to the post Cold War security environment.

Clearly Russia committed herself to not transferring nuclear or missile technology to aggressive regimes such as the Islamic Republic of Iran or Saddam Hussein's Iraq, when she agreed to accept U.S. aid in the aftermath of the Cold War.

But President Yeltsin and his top aides have been using these transfers as the currency of blackmail, to extort ever greater amounts of aid from the U.S. taxpayer, all in the name of securing Russia's weapons and preventing the leakage of Russian technology and Russian scientists to radical states.

Clearly, Mr. Chairman, we have been duped. And duped again.

Russian Assistance

Russian assistance to Iran's missile programs involves three key elements:
1) general scientific and academic exchanges;
2) missile-specific technology transfers and training
3) project-specific transfers of equipment, material, and design information

Scientific and academic exchanges

Russian scientists and academics began working in Iran not long after Mikhail Gorbachev expanded Soviet ties with Iran in 1988. At the time, the strategic goal of the Soviet Union was to see the U.S. military naval presence in the Persian Gulf reduced. Today, the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran share that same goal. We should keep that in mind as we contemplate the record of the Russian government's missile and nuclear transfers to Iran. They all serve a strategic purpose, which the Clinton administration has been loathe to acknowledge in its desire to support Mr. Yeltsin and the cleptocrats who surround him.
Today, Russian academics teach scientific disciplines in a variety of Iranian universities. They must get approval from the Russian intelligence service to do so. According to one Iranian army officer who fought in the Iran-Iraq war, the majority of these academic exchanges involve weapons-related fields. For instance, Russian instructors teaching underwater acoustics are said to be aiding Iranian efforts to design and build mini-submarines. Russian aerospace engineers have helped Iran upgrade U.S.-origin fighter jets and helicopters, integrating Russian-built missiles and avionics.
So for the better part of a decade, Russia has been training an entire generation of Iranian weapons designers.
This has been a conscious policy decision on the part of the Russian government, not some ad-hoc arrangement by unemployed scientists.

Missile Specific technology transfers, training, and design

In the missile arena, eight State institutes and recently-privatized universities have been identified in the public source literature for providing training in ballistics, aeronautic design, liquid and solid fuel booster design, and missile guidance to Iranian students.
These are highly specialized disciplines, not just ordinary graduate student work. Once again, the Russian government has direct involvement. Not only does it approve visa application for the visiting Iranians, but given the sensitive nature of their studies it must grant specific permits allowing the Iranians access to classified areas.
The state security apparatus is facilitating these exchanges, and according to both Israel and U.S. sources, is using information we provide to them through what used to be called the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission, to better conceal their activities.

Project-specific transfers of equipment, material, parts and assemblies

Beyond this, Iran has turned to Russian state-owned and recently privatized firms to acquire missile manufacturing equipment, specialized materials, parts and subassemblies, as well as entire rocket motors. In so doing, Russia has committed Category I and Category II violations of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which it has pledged to respect.
I have appended a list of 20 Russian entities engaged in these activities, detailing what we know from the public record. These are not trivial items, Mr. Chairman. But the real number is likely to be several times that many. We are talking about a massive hemorrhage of strategic technology.

The case of the Russian Space Agency

The Russian Space Agency is in a category by itself - not merely because it is the subject of our hearing today - but because it oversees virtually the entire Russian space and missile industry.
The RSA owns many of the institutes and production facilities that are currently assisting Iran's missile program. And those it does not own, it controls, by doling out research money and production contracts.
If the RSA wanted to shut down the missile pipeline to Iran, it could do so tomorrow. Obviously, until now, the RSA has not been made to feel it had anything to lose by continuing this trade with Iran.
The Russians have attempted to pin the blame on Glavcosmos, which was one of the entities sanctioned by the White House in July 1998. Glavcosmos oversees foreign sales of space technology, and is deeply involved in Iran. But Glavcosmos is just a trading company, Without the RSA, Glavcosmos would have no technology to sell. To cut off the missile pipeline, you have to go to the source. And that is the Russian Space Agency.

The KOSAR missile

And the bad news is that the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 programs are only the beginning. Iran is preparing to test a new multi-stage missile that if successful will give it the capability of reaching the continental United States.
The new missile, code-named "Kosar," is being designed with direct assistance from Russian aerospace entities. Early reports suggest it will be powered with a version of Russia's RD-216 liquid fuel booster engine, which was used in the Soviet era SS-5 IRBMs. The RD-216 was developed by Energomash, which is under the direct control of the Russian Space Agency.
If you have not already done so, Mr. Chairman, I strongly recommend that you request a classified briefing on the Kosar missile, and on the ongoing preparations at Iran's Shahroud missile range for a test launch that could occur later this summer.

Iran's strategy is Russia's strategy

The Islamic Republic considers the development of long-range ballistic missiles of tremendous strategic importance. These missiles allow them to target Israel, thus making Iran a "front-line" state and a direct player in the making of peace or war. They also give Iran the ability to blackmail the United States, and limit our freedom of action in the Persian Gulf.
The Russian government shares these aims. Former Prime Minister Primakov was fond of saying he wanted to see international checks and balances imposed on U.S. power. In particular, Primakov wanted to see the UN Security Council take precedence over the U.S. Congress or the White House when it came to deciding on foreign military intervention.
What better check on U.S. power than to have radical, anti-American regimes in the Middle East equipped with missiles capable of reaching the United States?
So far, Mr. Chairman, the administration has missed every opportunity for slowing down Iran's deadly march toward ICBM capability.
This legislation may be our last chance to accomplish that goal.

Appendix I:

Russian suppliers of missile technology to Iran

(as compiled from public sources by the Middle East Data Project, Inc.
Copyright 1999

I. Entities providing design assistance and general purpose missile-related technologies.

1) Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, a.k.a TsAGI.
TSAGI contracted in 1997 to build a wind tunnel in Iran, for use in aeronautical research projects. Their Iranian client was the Shahid Hemat Industrial Group, the Defense Industry Organization's liquid fuel missile development group. TSAGI also agreed to manufacture model missiles and to create missile design software for the Iranians..
The State Department's International Science and Technology Center in Moscow was planning to fund a TsAGI project involving new aircraft design at the same time TsAGI engineers were traveling to Iran to work on Iranian missile projects. Funding was only withdrawn when TsAGI's Iran connection was leaked to the Washington Times.

2) Bauman Technical University.
This is Moscow's leading aerospace research institute, something of the Russian equivalent of MIT. (It also happens to be the alma mater of Russia Space Agency boss Yuri Koptev). According to leaked U.S and Israeli intelligence reports, Bauman is helping the Iranians master production of the highly-corrosive liquid fuel--red fuming nitric acid--and the specialty steels needed to contain it. U.S. missile experts say that without this steel, Iran will be unable to keep the missiles fueled and ready for more than a few hours at a time. Bauman designers are also said to be helping Iran to adapt SS-4 technology to the North Korean Nodong missile which served as the basis for Iran's Shahab-3 missile.

3) Baltic States Technological University.
The government of the Russian Federation has opened the doors to Iran of this formerly state-run institute in Saint Petersburg, which helped develop ICBM rocket motors during the Cold War. BSTU has contracted with the Shahid Bagheri facility in Tehran, and the DIO's Sanam College, to help Iran design long-range solid fuel rocket boosters. Both of these are attached to Department 140, the Missile Industries Group of DIO.  President Clinton imposed sanctions on BSTU by Executive Order on July 28, 1998.

4) Moscow Aviation Institute.
Iranian President Hashemi-Rafsanjani was the first to acknowledge the assistance from MAI in a little- noticed speech in February 1997, when he noted that MAI was providing aerospace instructors to Sheikh Bahaei University in Isfahan. In November 1997, MAI was identified as being engaged in training Iranian "students" in aeronautics and ballistic design. MAI had been receiving Nunn-Lugar funding for a project to develop high-tech plastic joints for the aerospace industry, but this was cut off in March 1998 because of MAI's Iran connections.
The Russian internal security agency, FSB, claimed on July 15, 1998 that it had "foiled unauthorized activities of a group of specialists [from MAI]... who participated in research on missile technologies" with Iran. The Institute was officially sanctioned for missile technology transfers by the White House on Jan. 12, 1999.

5) Ustinov Military Mechanics State Technical University
Iranian students from the Sanam Industrial group, the DIO's liquid fuel missile design and manufacturing arm, were expelled in late June 1998 from Ustinov as part of Russia's "international obligations to control the spread of missile technology," Vocational Education Minister Aleksandr Tikhonov said.

6) Ramenskoye Design Bureau
This institute, which specializes in navigation and airflow systems for aircraft and missile, has also been cited as having carried out design work for the Shahab missile projects, although no specific details were available.

7) Komintern Factory
Directors of this Novosibirsk factory "made attempts at circumventing restrictions in order to ease their difficulties," by sending specialists with "technical military documentation" to Iran via Tadjikstan, FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev said on 7/15/98. White House officials said they were "not familiar" with the company's activities.

8) Tikhomirov Instrument Building Scientific and Research Institute
Directors of this factory "made attempts at circumventing restrictions in order to ease their difficulties," by sending specialists with "technical military documentation" to Iran via Tajikstan, FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev said on 7/15/98. White House officials said they were "not familiar" with the company's activities.

II. Entities providing specific components, parts, and subassemblies for the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 programs.

Many of the transfers carried out by the following entities would appear to constitute  Category I violations of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

9) NPO Trud (a.k.a. Kutznetzov)
This formerly state-owned production plant, one of the two largest manufacturers of liquid-fuel boosters in Russia, was one of the first companies publicly identified as having provided assistance to Iran.. Responding to these charges, a Russian government spokesman said that the authorities had stopped an Iranian attempt to manufacture "joints and parts for a liquid-fuel missile engine" at NPO Trud "under the guise of equipment for gas-pumping stations." Later it was revealed that NPO Trud had transferred SS-4 rocket motors and design information to Iran. Russian reports said five Iranians had been expelled from Russia for attempting to purchase missile-related components from NPO Trud in Samar.

10) Energomash
Energomash was cited in a European Union intelligence report as having manufactured the RD 214 motors transferred to Iran in 1996, but has denied the charges. Energomash has also provided technical assistance in overseeing static tests of the Shahab boosters at the Shahid Hemat facility outside of Tehran.
The company acknowledged that it had supplied guidance kits taken from decommissioned SS-N-18 strategic missiles to a Jordanian intermediary working for Iraq in 1995, but was eager to show visiting U.S. emissaries Bob Gallucci and Jack Keraveli, who toured the plant in late 1998, that it had stopped working with Iran. United Technologies subsidiary Pratt & Whitney is building a plant in Florida and a second one in Russia to build rocket motors based on an Energomash design, for use in Lockheed space launchers. The White House has been eager to exonerate Energomash from wrongdoing, since that could scotch the deal..

11) Khrunichev
Khrunichev has been mentioned periodically as being involved in the effort to transfer RD 214 and more recently RD 216 boosters to Iran, but both the U.S. and Russian governments have denied that any specific information implicating the company exists.
Like Energomash, Khrunichev has signed important contracts with U.S. companies, and stands to loose a lot if it is also shipping missile-related equipment to Iran. While Khrunichev's involvement in Iran's missile programs remains enigmatic from public sources, I would caution Members of this Committee that the White House record of "fudging" intelligence estimates to fit administration policies makes the administration denials suspect.

12) Glavcosmos
The Russian government acknowledges that Glavcosmos is involved in "civilian space" cooperation with Iran, and has signed as many as 18 separate contracts with Iranian entities engaged in missile production. One of these contracts, which the U.S. has protested, involves the sale of a high-temperature vacuum furnace used for manufacturing missile parts.
Glavcosmos subsequently denied any wrongdoing, and said the contracts involved "deliveries of industrial and science-related  equipment that fall under no [arms control] limitations."
I will discuss the relationship between Glavcosmos and the RSA in a separate section below.

13) Rosvoorouzhenie
The Russian state arms exporting agency, Rosvoorouzhenie, was implicated in negotiating and implementing the contract to build a wind tunnel for missile tests at the DIO's Shahid Hemat Industrial Group. An Israeli intelligence report in late 1996 named the aerospace director of Rosvoorouzhenie as helping Iran line up Russian firms who would assist in designing the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4. The Russian government told the U.S. in September 1997 it had fired the head of the company, General Alexandr Kotelkin, because of his involvement in Iranian missile projects.

14) INOR (a.k.a. the Russian Scientific and Production Center)
INOR contracted with Iran's Shahid Hemat Industrial Group in early 1997 to supply special mirrors, maraging steel for missile bodies and tungsten-coated graphite for use in booster parts, according to U.S. intelligence reports. The Washington Times subsequently reported that INOR had signed yet another agreement with Iran's Defense Industries Organization in late September 1997 - only days after Russian officials provided assurances in Moscow to Vice President Al Gore that Russia had no involvement in the Iranian programs. The latest agreement involves the supply of special steel alloys and foil used to shield guidance equipment from the tremendous heat encountered during re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

15) Polyus Research Institute (a.k.a. North Star).
The Polyus Research Institute in Moscow has helped Iran jointly design the guidance package for the Shahab-3 and follow-on missiles, and has supplied advanced ring-laser gyroscopes. Ring-laser gyros are the navigation system of choice for Third World countries since once they are installed they require no recalibration or maintenance. Outside of Russia, only the United States, France, and Germany are capable of making these devices. In addition, Polyus reportedly has helped Iran adapt Soviet-era SS-4 technology to the North Korean Nodong airframe.  Sanctions were imposed on Polyus by U.S. Executive Order on 7/28/98.

This is a small, private firm in Moscow, founded by missile experts formerly employed by Moscow State University, who allegedly set up the firm to ship materials to Iran and to recruit missile scientists to work in Iran. On March 26, 1998, MOSSO trucks containing 22 tons of maraging steel used for liquid fuel tanks were stopped by Azerbaijani customs as they were attempting to enter Iran. Sanctions were imposed on the firm by U.S. Executive Order on 7/28/98.

17) Europalas 2000
This was the front company listed as shipper for MOSSO's shipment of 22 tons of maraging steel. Sanctions were imposed by U.S. Executive Order on 7/28/98

18) Ni Grafit Research Institute
Austrian customs intercepted a container of a specialized material used to coat ballistic missile warheads, manufactured by Ni Grafit, en route to Iran in early 1998. This company was one of those sanctioned by U.S. Executive Order on 7/28/98.

19) Mytishchi Machine-Building Plant
Iranian attempts to purchase missile production equipment from Mytischchi led to the expulsion of an Iranian national, Reza Teymouri, in November 1998. Russia used this example to support its claims that it was cracking down on Iranian attempts to acquire missile technology in Russia.

20) The Russian Space Agency
RSA director Yuri Koptev was named in an early Israeli intelligence report, handed to the U.S. in 1997, as having personally coordinated the participation of Russian companies with Iran to design and build the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 missiles. Those accusations were repeated by U.S. intelligence officials in code-word briefings in January 1998. The RSA was charged with supervising what some experts believe is the most critical phase of all: systems integration. This is when all the different parts of the missile are finally pieced together and made to function as a coherent whole. Many Third World missile programs have failed because they lacked engineers with this type of expertise.