Iranian collaboration with North Korea on a new rocket booster for long-range missiles undermines the deal with Tehran on its nuclear program, key Senate and House Republicans said on Tuesday.
“While the president was undertaking his secret negotiations—which Congress wasn’t informed of—he had to know Iran and North Korea were testing new engines for ballistic missiles to target the United States,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.
Rogers said in a statement that despite sharp budget cuts, U.S. space monitoring systems would not miss the development of the new booster engine.
“Every day the president’s deal looks worse and worse,” Rogers said when asked about the Tehran-Pyongyang missile collaboration.
The chairman, whose subcommittee is in charge of overseeing U.S. strategic weapons, ballistic missile defenses, and space programs, made the comments in response to a report Tuesday revealing that Iran is covertly working with North Korea on a new 80-ton rocket booster that can be used in both nations’ long-range missile programs.
In the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) also criticized the Iran nuclear deal for not addressing the threat of Iran’s ICBM program.
Reports of Iran-North Korea ICBM collaboration follow new anti-America and anti-Israel outbursts from the Islamist regime in Tehran, Cruz said.
“The Iranian regime is clearly demonstrating through word and deed that they have no intention of moderating the behavior that earned them one of the harshest international programs of economic sanctions on record,” Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon. “Relaxing the sanctions now only encourages them to continue their pursuit of nuclear weapons–and the means to deliver them to Israel, Europe and even the United States. I hope President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry will reconsider this dangerous policy and add the immediate cessation of their ICBM program to the list of prerequisites placed on Iran before any additional negotiations take place.”
Claude Chafin, a spokesman for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, also voiced concern over reports of Iran-North Korea missile cooperation.
“Without a comprehensive deal to limit the Iranian ballistic missile program, and eliminate their ability to enrich uranium, the pieces are falling into place for both the Iranians and the North Koreans to threaten the United States with nuclear-tipped ICBMs,” Chafin said in an email.
Chafin said the cooperation increases the threat to the United States because both Pyongyang and Tehran share missile technology. “It is reasonable to assume that North Korean missile capabilities are peer to Iranian missile capabilities,” he said.
Intelligence reports indicated that as recently as late October Iranian technicians from the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a defense organization that builds liquid-fueled missiles, were in Pyongyang collaborating on the booster development.
SHIG has been sanctioned in the past by both the U.S. government and the United Nations for illicit missile transfers.
U.S. officials said the new booster could be used on both a space launcher and a long-range missile. Iran and North Korea are believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be using their space programs to mask long-range missile development.
Officials said the covert missile cooperation indicates the Iranians are continuing to build long-range strategic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear warheads at the same time they are negotiating limits on illicit uranium enrichment.
Intelligence assessments have said that both countries could test a missile capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear warhead within the next two years.
Henry Sokolski, head of the private Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said he agrees with U.S. special envoy on North Korea Glyn Davies that more pressure should be applied on North Korea to give up its nuclear arms.
“As Glyn Davies put it, if the North Koreans don’t demonstrate that they understand they must fulfill their obligations, then more sanctions pressure will be brought to bear on them,” he said.
“He was speaking of the North Koreans but what’s good for the goose should also be good for the gander—in this case, Iran,” Sokolski said.
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for international security during the George W. Bush administration, said the main purpose of Iranian and North Korean ballistic missile program and their longstanding cooperation “has always been to serve as the delivery vehicle for nuclear weapons.”
“By ignoring the facts about this cooperation and its objective, the Obama Administration has again demonstrated that it is content to live with an Iranian nuclear weapons capability,” Bolton said in an email.
“There is simply no other explanation for the administration’s inept, offhand [reaction] to the manifest threat Tehran poses. The signal to other would-be proliferators is truly ominous.”
Frank Gaffney, a former assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration, said he is concerned that the Obama administration may have suppressed intelligence about the Tehran-North Korean missile collaboration.
“The reported suppression of information contradicting the administration’s contention that Iran is meaningfully abandoning its nuclear weapons program fits a pattern of misinformation, or lying to the American people, that constitutes national security fraud,” Gaffney said, noting similarities to misinformation put out by the administration on health care reform.