United Press International
By ARIEL COHEN
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- It is highly significant that Iran's missile program is under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard -- Pasdaran -- the most loyal element of the regime, which combines internal secret police and external intelligence and shock troop functions. It is not controlled by civilians; not even by the regular military.
Historical parallels to a national security organization involvement in missile production and space launches include the German use of slave labor, coordinated with Heinrich Himmler's SS. Incidentally, Himmler had an abiding interest in space travel and even space colonization.
Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's omnipotent secret police chief, presided over the Soviet nuclear bomb program and an empire of technological research institutes, such as the one described in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel "The First Circle."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced its forthcoming space launch, which may likely be disguising a new intermediate-range ballistic missile or an attempt to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Potential Iranian long-range and intermediate-range ballistic missile or intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities make a deployment of a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system in Central Europe -- Poland and the Czech Republic -- particularly timely and necessary.
In the past, Iran has received assistance from the People's Republic of China in the development of its ballistic missile program focusing on improving missile accuracy. Thus, Iranian missile technology is related to Chinese, Russian, North Korean and possibly Pakistani origins.
As Iran achieves its own space launch capability, it improves its long-range ballistic missiles. Such was the case of the Soviet Union, with its flight test of the world's first intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7 -- NATO designation SS-6 -- in August 1957, followed two months later by the launch in October 1958 of the world's first satellite, Sputnik 1.
Another example is China with its DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile and its space rocket clone, the Long March-2C. Moreover, China's first SLV rockets, the Long March-1, were developed from an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the DF-4.
France successfully developed an SLV capability by utilizing components and stages from its ballistic missile technology, thus developing the Diamant space rocket, which successfully launched a satellite in 1965. The United States has supplied Israel with advanced U.S.-made X-band radar. Such a system will give Israel much greater warning of a possible ballistic missile attack by Iran.
The system can pick up a ballistic missile shortly after launch, slashing the response time of Israel's Arrow missile defense system. The new radar was flown into Israel last week, along with a U.S. crew of 120 technicians, and is being set up at the Nevatim air base in the Negev desert.
India began in 1979 the development of the Agni 1 intermediate-range ballistic missile. This missile uses a first-stage motor similar to the first-stage motor of India's Satellite Launch Vehicle-3, which began launching satellites in 1979.
(Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is a senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies and international energy security at the Heritage Foundation. His most recent book is "Kazakhstan: The Road to Independence.")