- Iran has reportedly established a secret missile research facility in the desert where it may be developing technology for long-range missiles, The New York Times reported.
- The evidence suggested Iran could be ready to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile within roughly a decade, an expert said.
- This could complicate the Trump administration’s efforts to establish a new deal with Tehran after the president recently announced the US would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Iran has reportedly established a secret missile research facility in the desert where it may be developing technology for long-range missiles, The New York Times reported.
California-based experts came to this conclusion after diving deep into Iranian state-based news, particularly coverage of the late military scientist Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.
Moghaddam was killed in an explosion at Iran’s long-range missile facility in 2011, which many experts saw as a major roadblock to Tehran’s long-range missile research.
But, based on the analysis from the California researchers, Moghaddam set up a second, secret facility deep in the desert shortly before his death and it is allegedly fully operational.
According to their findings, the site is potentially being used for research into advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, suggesting Iran could be focusing on moving toward developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
‘The investigation highlights some potentially disturbing developments’
“The investigation highlights some potentially disturbing developments,” Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who reviewed the findings, told The New York Times.
The evidence suggested Iran could be ready to develop an ICBM within roughly a decade, Elleman added.
By analysing Iranian state media coverage of Moghaddam, the experts at the nonpartisan Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California discovered bits of evidence suggesting his research was being continued.
For example, a photo of Moghaddam posted by an Iranian journalist in 2017 showed the military scientist sitting near a box marked “Shahrud.”
Shahrud was the location of a missile test in 2013. After looking at satellite images of the site, the researchers found the number of buildings in the area had gradually increased over time and that there was a significant amount of human traffic in the area.
They also noticed, among other curious signs, that there were ground scars in the terrain – suggesting missile engines had been test-fired at the site. Based on their analysis, the ground scars were relatively recent and were likely from 2016 and 2017.
If the researcher’s conclusions are correct, it does not mean Iran violated the terms of the landmark Iran nuclear deal President Donald Trump recently withdrew the US government from. But it could complicate the Trump administration’s efforts to establish a new deal with Tehran.
Jeffrey Lewis, the leader of the California team behind the research, told The New York Times that Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal could inspire the country to accelerate long-range missile testing and that it may be more capable in this regard than many previously believed.
“We’ve stumbled onto this program that was much closer to being done than we’d realised,” Lewis said.
Lewis further said Iran has likely chosen to “restrain” its missile program for political reasons, perhaps to avoid international attention and more economic sanctions, but if the US tells “them to go to hell, we’re not going to like what they do.”
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