Russian Assistance to Iran's missile
Testimony on H.R. 1883, Iran Nonproliferation
before Congressman Dana Rohrabacher
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of
Committee on Science
U.S. House of Representatives
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
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 to Iran's missile programs involves three key
1) general scientific and academic exchanges;
2) missile-specific technology transfers and training
3) project-specific transfers of equipment, material, and design
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
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
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
Project-specific transfers of equipment, material, parts and
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
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
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
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
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
This legislation may be our last chance to accomplish that goal.
Russian suppliers of missile technology to Iran
(as compiled from public sources by the Middle East Data
Copyright © 1999
I. Entities providing design assistance and general purpose
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
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
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
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
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.
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..
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
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
I will discuss the relationship between Glavcosmos and the RSA
in a separate section below.
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
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
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.