Sanctions imposed against Iran have thwarted Tehran’s efforts to develop and produce long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking potential targets in Western Europe and beyond, reported London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on Monday.
The report, however, said that there is “mounting evidence,” suggesting that the sanctions did not prevent “Tehran from operating an increased number of centrifuges for uranium-enrichment activities or adding to its stockpile of fissile material.”
“If sanctions continue to disrupt Tehran’s access to the key propellant ingredients and components needed to produce large solid-propellant rocket motors, Iranian attempts to develop and field long-range ballistic missiles could be significantly impeded, if not halted altogether,” the report added.
Since United Nations’ imposed sanctions against Iran in June 2010, with EU and U.S. later following suit, it was not clear if growing Western sanctions were in fact effective as Tehran finds alternatives to impede them.
On Wednesday, Iran launched its first domestically-produced aframax oil tanker, sidestepping the sanctions that have targeted oil exports and battered its maritime trade. Aframaxes can carry up to 700,000 barrels of oil.
Iran is highly dependent on the production and export of crude oil to finance its government.
However, the sanctions against Iran’s imports of information technology and knowledge have prevented Tehran from having access to key propellant and other ingredients necessary to develop its missile program.
“Iran does not have the capacity to design, develop and produce new, more powerful liquid-fuelled engines, and this is unlikely to change over the next decade,” said the report.
“Available evidence also indicates – but does not prove – that Iran cannot reliably build the liquid-propellant engines that power its current inventory of Scud and No-dong/Ghadr-1 missiles, a shortfall that likely leaves the Islamic Republic susceptible to supplier controls and unable to add to its stockpile of operational liquid-fuelled missiles,” it added.
The report also said that Iranian engineers can possibly be able to produce near-copies of the Scud and No-dong engines, but replica engines, “do not perform as well as the originals and often prove to be unreliable.”
Iran was able to acquire short-range, liquid-propellant Scud-B missiles from Libya, Syria and North Korea for use against Iraqi cities during the latter stages of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.
Scub-B’s successful targeted attacks, let Iran purchase additional 300km-range Scud-Bs from North Korea, along with 500km-range Scud-Cs, in the 1990s, which it renamed Shahab-1 and -2.
Iran later modified Shahab 1 and 2, to produce the medium-range No-dong missiles and Shahab-3s.
After a decade of work, Shahab-3 was modified for a longer-ranger of missiles named as Ghadr-1.
If Ghadr-1 carried a heavy payload, such as a notional first-generation nuclear warhead weighing upwards of 1,300kg, it will have a maximum range to approximately 1,100km.
The report also said that the explosions that had happened at the Bid Ganeh missile facility approximately 40 km southwest of Tehran in November 2011, have robbed Iran of its “core solid-propellant missile production.”
The assassination of Major-General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, “architect” or the‘Godfather’ of Iran’s missile program, along with a dozen of his colleagues, was also a mishap to the missile-testing program.
Moghaddam was an engineer by profession, reported to have been trained in ballistic science by China and North Korea.
The report, however, did not mention the accelerated cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. The Stuxnet, a complex virus developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel, has hit Iran’s nuclear program since 2010.