Iran Expands Covert Ballistic Missile Program, Dismisses US Sanctions

Iran is covertly expanding an underground network of ballistic missile construction and testing sites, despite new U.S. sanctions aimed at deterring the Islamic Republic’s illicit program, which is believed to be focused on the delivery of a nuclear warhead.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, has clandestinely moved to expand a network of front companies that primarily fuel the underground construction of ballistic missiles, according to sources following the country’s procurement system.

Iranian military leaders—who have recently dismissed new U.S. sanctions—are now focused on perfecting intercontinental ballistic missile technology, which would enable Iran to fire a nuclear-tipped warhead over great distances.

Iran maintains the “largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” according to U.S. intelligence assessments. The country has recently been moving materials to underground sites via a complex network of IRGC-controlled companies, according to a brief on the procurement activity released by the Foundation For Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance.

As senior officials plan their response, Tehran is codifying an extensive range of companies and networks to feed its ballistic missile program, according to the FDD brief.

“Tehran has used commercial entities as fronts to procure sensitive technology or to provide goods for military purposes,” according to the brief from resident Iran expert Saeed Ghasseminejad. “Today, a wide array of entities and sectors are thus likely involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

The program includes a network of IRGC-controlled suppliers that provide minerals and other raw materials required to fuel the missile program. This network has grown considerably over the years as the IRGC expands its grip on the Iranian economy.

“The ballistic-missile program requires expertise in both metallurgy and mining, and the IRGC has purchased a network of firms in both [sectors],” according to the brief. “Iran’s mining sector is a supplier of raw and processed materials for military uses, including ballistic missile production.”

Iran controls “the world’s largest reserves of zinc and the second-largest reserves of copper.” These precious minerals are used to reduce the visibility of missiles and “keep them from detection and interception,” according to the brief.

The internal network feeds research at several underground facilities that continue to operate as the primary hub for Iran’s ballistic missile program.

“A ballistic missile program also requires the construction of testing and production facilities, above- and underground storage areas, and launch facilities,” according to the brief. “In October 2015 and again in January 2016, the IRGC unveiled two underground sites for storing missiles. Given the sensitive nature of those programs, it is unlikely that the IRGC employed outside contractors to pursue them.”

Experts speculate that these storage sites were built by the IRGC’s construction conglomerate, Khatam al-Anbiya, which employs some 5,000 contractors and hundreds of subsidiaries. The company also is developing several subway systems in Iran, which means it possesses the equipment needed to dig underground tunnels.

Additionally, Iran maintains multiple research centers that develop the technology needed to propel ballistic missiles over long distances.

The research centers study high-strength aluminum alloys and materials that can boost the strength of its rockets.

Full article: Iran Expands Covert Ballistic Missile Program, Dismisses US Sanctions (Washington Free Beacon)

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