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NightWatch 20110515


For the Night of 15 May 2011

UN-North Korea-Iran: A new UN report has found that North Korea and Iran appear to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions. According to the report, as news services have relayed, the illicit technology transfers had "trans-shipment through a neighboring third country." That country was China, several diplomats told Reuters.

"Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between North Korea and Iran on regularly scheduled flights by Air Koryo and Iran Air…. For the shipment of cargo, like arms and related materiel, whose illicit nature would become apparent on any cursory physical inspection North Korea seems to prefer chartered cargo flights."

Comment: The missile and nuclear relationship between North Korea and Iran is old news. For years Iranians have been invited to observe North Korean missile and probably nuclear activities and been the beneficiaries of North Korea's dependence on arms sales for hard currency.  Iran also might have bankrolled North Korean missile and nuclear  testing because the North has never had the finances for a nuclear weapons and a missile program without outside help. Thus analysts probably need to think of nuclear weapons resulting from this relationship as North Korean-Iranian weapons.

It is well established in open source reporting that the Iranian Shahab III medium range ballistic missile is a North Korean NoDong missile. Pakistan also has the NoDong, but calls it the Ghauri. It is nuclear capable. The sharing of technological insights about missile performance and flight characteristics with nuclear warheads is almost certainly a three-corner circuit.

North Korea always makes its customers pay for research and development and almost all other costs. The North Korean construction of the Syria SCUD ballistic missile infrastructure was completed in Syria in the late 1980s before it was completed in North Korea. In other words, the Syrians paid for their own system as well as contributed to the North Korean SCUD ballistic missile infrastructure and capability. 

As for the NoDong, it also appears to have been sold to the Pakistanis and Iranians before the North Koreans possessed a fully fielded and tested set of NoDong missile units. That is the North Korean proliferation doctrine: collaborate in tailoring the system, but make the customer pay development, testing, construction, training and support costs while North Korea retains the technology, as part of the package.

There are five implications. North Korea has no  peaceful nuclear energy. Thus, any Iranian program linked to North Korea is inherently a weapons program. It can be nothing else.

North Korea continues to improve its domestic weapons program through collaboration with other states. All developmental testing is performed outside the Korean Peninsula, but benefits the North's programs.

North Korean high technology and high energy programs in Burma can only be weapons related.  Burma is not a conduit for nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, as one pundit proposed. The North is desperate for money, not technology. Burma is a cash cow, just as were Syria, Pakistan, Libya and Iran. Technological insights follow the sale. The North has never constructed a nuclear-powered electric generation plant and has never had one.

The UN report is an obvious political document that could have been compiled a decade ago. The timing of the distribution points towards new pressures on Iran and maybe on North Korea.  It is a reminder of the impossibility of obtaining a North Korean commitment to terminate its most profitable weapons export line -- the proliferation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems technology.

Finally, North Korean proliferation would not be possible without Chinese assistance, active or passive.  The UN document is important for noting that any proliferation activities originating in North Korea could not succeed without Chinese cooperation. That probably is why the Chinese nuclear expert refused to sign the new UN report. 

As a footnote, Secretary of State Albright went to North Korea during the Clinton administration. At that time, a successful and skillful program to stop proliferation would have prevented Pakistan, Libya and Iran from obtaining the NoDong and its nuclear warhead technology.

Pakistan: The Pakistani parliament on 14 May condemned the US raid to find and kill Usama bin Laden, calling for a review of U.S. relations and noting Pakistan could sever supply lines to US forces in Afghanistan should another such operations take place.

Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate chief Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha reportedly said he is ready to resign from his post over the bin Laden incident, according to a lawmaker. His resignation was not accepted.

Comment: One Asia Times on Line analyst provided a reminder last week that Chief of Army Staff General Kayani was the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate at the time bin Laden arrived in Abbottabad, six or, possibly. seven years ago. Musharraf was the Chief of the Army Staff and the leader of Pakistan by dint of his 1999 illegal overthrow of elected government. Kayani was his hand-picked successor as Chief of Army Staff.

Official remarks in parliamentary closed sessions last week that lament an intelligence failure leave unclear to what failure they refer. The implication is that it is not the presence of bin Laden but rather the failure to anticipate and detect the US raid against Abbottabad.

Pakistani officials are now blaming the US, according to a 15 May report in the Washington Post, for the ruin of the Army and the country. This is venting because the dominant culprit in ruining the country is the Army.

Under Musharraf, the economy declined. The number of madrasahs increased exponentially under Musharraf's regime, just as they did under Martial Law Administrator General Zia ul Haq. The Army made political deals with the Islamists against the civilian parties.

Bin Laden and his cohorts and Mullah Omar and his acolytes found safe refuge in Pakistan for ten years. The Pakistan Army was unprepared for war and was unable to complete its preparations for war with India in 2001 and 2002. It remains unable to complete its mobilization and accomplish its readiness doctrine. Army rule is responsible for Pakistan's international embarrassment and domestic failures.

Most of the strategic decisions in the past 30 years have been aimed at making Pakistan more secure against India. Pakistan is now much less secure against India that at any past time. Moreover, it has failed to control the Islamist forces that it is responsible for unleashing. Pakistan is possibly the most dangerous place on earth.

End of NightWatch for 15 May.

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