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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran: Arms and Technology Acquisitions

97-474 F  Iran: Arms and Technology Acquisitions 
                              LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
NUMBER:   97-474 F
TITLE:    Iran: Arms and Technology Acquisitions 
AUTHOR:   Kenneth Katzman
DIVISION: Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
DATE:     Updated June 22, 1998
          The Clinton Administration and Congress are pressing to
persuade Iran's major arms and technology suppliers, primarily 
Russia and China, to sever their military relations with Iran.  
The Administration's need to engage supplier countries on a 
wide range of issues often has complicated U.S. efforts to end 
their dealings with Iran, and has led some in Congress to 
demand that the Administration do more to compel supplier 
countries to end transfers to Iran.  Both the House and the 
Senate have passed a bill  (H.R. 2709), by overwhelming margins,
imposing sanctions on foreign entities that contribute to Iran's 
efforts to develop ballistic missiles.  The Clinton Administration 
has said a veto is likely; it has until June 23 to do so.   This 
report will be updated in response to legislative and policy 
   Whatever Iran's intentions, arms and technology transfers have
given that country additional capabilities with which to threaten
the Persian Gulf monarchies and U.S. forces in the Gulf.   Possibly
in an effort to compensate for its continuing conventional military
weaknesses relative to U.S. forces, Iran is attempting to obtain
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technology.
Russia (See Endnote 1.)
   Russia has largely completed delivery of arms ordered by Iran
in 1989.  It has already delivered about 40 MiG-29 and Su-24 combat
aircraft, about 150 T-72 tanks, SA-5 and SA-6 surface-to-air missile
systems, and three Kilo-class diesel submarines, the last of which
arrived January 18, 1996.  In response to Administration pressure
and U.S. sanctions legislation, Russia formally pledged in June 1995
not to enter any new arms contracts with Iran, although prior arms
contracts could be implemented.   The Administration considers 
deliveries to Iran after that time as part of these contracts.  
   Ballistic Missiles. Until 1997, Russia had not been identified publicly
as a major supplier of ballistic missile technology to Iran.  However, on
February 12, 1997, during a visit to Washington by Russian Prime Minister
Chernomyrdin, the United States  protested a Russian transfer to Iran of 
technology that can be used to produce a missile with a range and payload
(300 km range, 500kg payload) covered by the Missile Technology Control
Regime (MTCR).   Russia has been a formal member of the MTCR since August
8, 1995.   The Iranian missile programs receiving Russian assistance have
been cited by press reports as the Shahab (Meteor)-3 (800-930 mile range,
1,650 lb payload) and the Shahab-4 (1,240 mile range, 2,200 lb payload). 
(See Endnote 2.)   There is concern in the United States and the Middle 
East that the Russian assistance could help Iran become self-sufficient in
missile production, and press reports say Iran could be within a year or 
two of fielding the Shahab-3. (See Endnote 3.)
   Since  August 1997, an Administration  envoy, Frank Wisner 
(succeeded in March by Robert Galluci) , has been discussing 
with Russia U.S.  evidence that Russian institutes and scientists 
are continuing to help  Iran develop a self-sufficient long range missile 
capability.   On a  visit to Moscow in September 1997, Vice President 
Gore said that a  U.S.-Russian inquiry had uncovered a vigorous 
Iranian effort to  obtain nuclear and ballistic missile technology 
from Russia.  The United  States praised a January 22 decree 
by Chernomyrdin adopting  tighter controls on exports of 
technology such as that useful to  Iran's missile or other WMD 
programs, as well as a May 14 directive  establishing export control 
units in Russian entities working in the  missile and nuclear fields. 
   The Administration has asserted that the Russian directives and pledges
of further cooperation merit a veto of the Iran Missile Proliferation
Sanctions Act of 1997 (H.R. 2709), which passed the House on 
November 12, 1997 by voice vote and the Senate, on May 22, by a 
vote of 90-4.  The House passed the bill, as amended, on June 9, by 
a 392-22 vote.   The bill would require sanctions, including 
suspension of U.S. government assistance, on foreign entities (including 
governmental entities operating as businesses) that assist Iran's 
ballistic missile programs.    Supporters of the bill maintain that 
assistance to Iran by 18-20 Russian entities is continuing and 
that greater U.S. pressure is needed if Russia is to vigorously 
enforce its new directives.   In an attempt to respond to this view, 
the Administration said April 16 it would give "extra scrutiny" 
to Russian entities before approving U.S. aid to them.   In addition, 
a provision of a FY1998 emergency supplemental appropriation 
(P.L. 105-174) provides $179 million for systems to counter the 
Iranian missile threat.    
   Russia-Iran Nuclear Plant Deal.   The Clinton Administration has
expended significant effort to end Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation 
on the grounds that technology and skills transferred to Iran would 
enable Iran to further a nuclear weapons program.  Observers also 
fear that Iran might try to exploit contacts within Russia's cash-strapped 
Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) to obtain, illegitimately, 
controlled or prohibited materials or technology.   Russia maintains 
that these fears are unfounded because Iran is a party to the Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty and accepts International Atomic Energy 
Agency (IAEA) visits to declared nuclear facilities.  Russia's 
program of nuclear cooperation with Iran centers on a contract, 
signed January 8, 1995, to complete the 1,000 Megawatt number
one reactor at Bushehr within five years, at a cost to Iran of about $800
million.  The reactor was begun by German firms in 1974, but work 
stopped after the 1979 Islamic revolution and the plant was damaged 
by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
   President Clinton, during a May 1995 summit with President Yeltsin,
obtained a pledge that Russia would not supply Iran with uranium 
enrichment equipment or a research reactor.  Russia has said publicly 
that it, not Iran, will reprocess the spent reactor fuel.  Nonetheless,  
the initial phase of the Bushehr nuclear plant project is proceeding.   
Russian andIranian officials have said the plant should be operational 
by 2001, although technical problems might further postpone completion.   
In addition, in February and March 1998, Iran and Russia agreed that Russia
will take over from Iran construction of support facilities at the Bushehr
site and will build two additional 640 megawatt nuclear reactors at Bushehr. 
The project suffered a setback on March 6, when visiting Secretary of 
State Albright initialed an agreement with Ukraine under which it 
pledged to drop the sale of the turbines for the reactor.  However, 
the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency visited Russia in 
mid-May to discuss increased cooperation, including possible acquisition 
of a nuclear reactor.  The visit reportedly included a Russian 
demonstration of uranium enrichment technology.  
   The Bushehr reactor project has attracted continuing congressional
concern.    Within three months of the deal, President Clinton signed into
law a defense supplemental appropriation (P.L. 104-6) that contained a
provision precluding U.S. cooperation with Russia on civilian nuclear
projects  if  it went ahead with the Bushehr deal.  The Administration has
refused to renew some civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with Moscow. 
However, the Administration formally waived provisions of FY 1996 and 
FY1997 foreign aid appropriations laws (P.L. 104-107 and P.L. 104-208,
respectively) that made U.S. aid to Russia contingent on termination of the
deal with Iran, on the grounds that it is more crucial to support reform in
Russia.  The FY1998 foreign aid appropriations law (P.L. 105-118) cuts 
50% of U.S. aid to the Russian government unless it ends nuclear or 
ballistic missile cooperation with Iran.  
   Over the past few years, China has replaced Russia as Iran's leading
source of conventional arms, according to Administration officials.  Some
of China's possible motives for arming Iran include: a desire to divert U.S.
forces to the Persian Gulf and away from areas near Taiwan; to retaliate for
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan; to improve China's ability to obtain Iranian oil
exports or investment projects; and to earn hard currency.  China, a key
conventional weapons supplier to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88),
has helped Iran rearm from that war by supplying a wide array of equipment,
including about 100 artillery pieces, several hundred tanks, 45 of the
Chinese version of the SA-2 surface-to-air missile, and about 25 F-7 combat
      Anti-Ship Missiles.   Iran's purchases of Chinese naval equipment
have caused more U.S. concern than other conventional weapons categories,
because the acquisitions improve Iran's ability to strike at U.S. forces and
installations or commercial shipping in the Gulf.   Fifteen fast attack
craft,  as well as ten other French-made patrol boats, are outfitted with
C-802 anti-ship cruise missile (120 km range), also supplied by China. 
(Iran is believed to have received over 100 C-802's.)   The C-802 is not
covered under the MTCR because its range and payload are under the regime's
threshold.   Iran tested the Chinese-supplied air-launched C-801K missile
on one of its operational U.S.-made F-4 Phantom aircraft in June, prompting
Secretary of Defense Cohen to assert that Iran now poses a "360 degree
threat" to U.S. forces.  The threat would increase if Iran acquires an over-
the-horizon targeting capability for the missile.  A few days prior to the
October 1997 U.S.-China summit, U.S. officials said that China had pledged
to Secretary of State Albright in September that it would halt further sales
of anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran.  
   Congressional debate about the Chinese anti-ship missile transfers have
centered on whether the transfers trigger U.S. sanctions under  the Iran-
Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act of 1992 (50 U.S.C. 1701).   That law
requires sanctions on persons or countries that provide destabilizing
numbers or types of advanced conventional weapons to Iran (or Iraq). (See
Endnote 4.)   Administration officials determined that the C-802 and C-801
transfers to Iran "are not of a destabilizing number and type" to warrant
U.S. sanctions.  However, no agreed definition of "destabilizing" was
stipulated in the law.   Some in Congress believe that, because U.S. defense
officials have stated that the missiles pose a threat to U.S. forces, China
should have been sanctioned for the transfers.    
   In advance of the October 1997 U.S.-China summit, China's Foreign
Minister pledged to halt further anti-ship missile sales to Iran.  
Secretary of Defense Cohen said his counterparts reiterated that pledge
during his January 1998 visit to China.  It is not clear, however, whether
any more of the missiles will be delivered to Iran under existing Iran-China
   Weapons of Mass Destruction and Delivery Means. (See Endnote 5.)  China
has reportedly supplied Iran with advice and technology to produce weapons
of mass destruction and delivery systems.  There have been no confirmed
deliveries of entire M-9 or M-11 ballistic missiles to Iran, both of which
are considered to have range/payload combinations that exceed MTCR
guidelines.  However, on June 22, 1995, the New York Times quoted a May 1995
Central Intelligence Agency study as concluding that China had "delivered
dozens, perhaps hundreds, of missile guidance systems and computerized
machine tools to Iran..."  Other sources said rocket propellent ingredients
were provided as well. (See Endnote 6.)  A November 21, 1996 Washington
Times report quoted an October 1996 CIA report as saying China had sold Iran
guidance technology and components to test ballistic missiles, possibly for
use in the Russian-assisted Shahab program.   On November 22, 1996, and
again on September 10, 1997,  the State Department said the United States
had not determined that China had violated its March 1992 commitment to
adhere to the terms of  the MTCR.   In March 1998 the Administration
reportedly offered China expanded cooperation on commercial space ventures
in return for an end to all Chinese assistance to Iran's ballistic missile
programs and its joining the MTCR.  China has rejected formally joining that
control regime. 
   In May 1998, China reportedly transferred to Iran 1,000 tons of
specialty steel for possible use in Iran's missile programs and discussed
with Iran sales of telemetry equipment for missile testing. (See Endnote 7.) 
 Asked about the press reports, Secretary of State Albright testified before
the Senate Appropriations Committee June 16 that the United States had
continuing concerns about China's proliferation record.  One day later, and
about a week before President Clinton's trip to China, China announced new
regulations controlling dual use technology exports.      
   Under a contract signed in February 1993, China agreed to expand its
nuclear cooperation with Iran by constructing in Iran two 300 megawatt
nuclear reactors and providing technology and training. (See Endnote 8.) 
In mid-1997, Administration officials said they had  blocked a deal between
Iran and a Chinese government-owned firm for the sale to Iran of a "uranium
conversion facility, " (See Endnote 9.) although China reportedly had given
Iran blueprints for the facility. (See Endnote 10.)   In advance of the
October 1997 U.S.-China summit, the Administration said it received a firm
written assurance that China would end its nuclear relations with Iran,
although two small ongoing  projects (See Endnote 11.) would continue.   The
Administration said that, in order to certify to Congress that China is
cooperating to end nuclear proliferation, it required this assurance, even
though Iran's known nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards.  This
certification, required by P.L. 99-183 and signed on January 12, 1998,
opened China to nuclear cooperation with the United States under a 1985
bilateral agreement.  Despite press reports on March 13 that China and Iran
negotiated in early 1998 to supply Iran with uranium enrichment material,
(See Endnote 12.) Congress did not formally disapprove within the thirty
legislative day period, and the certification took effect on March 18.  
Nonetheless, an Iranian newspaper reported May 10 that an Iranian nuclear
team might visit China in June 1998 to discuss peaceful nuclear cooperation. 
   U.S. officials have said publicly that Iran has a large and increasingly
self-sufficient chemical weapons program that has been supplied or assisted,
in part, by Chinese firms.  On May 22, 1997, Secretary of State Albright
announced that U.S. sanctions would be imposed, under the Chemical and
Biological Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (P.L. 102- 182), on two Chinese
firms (Nanjing Chemical Industries Group) and Jiangsu Yongli Chemical
Engineering and Technology Import/Export Corp.) and one Hong Kong firm
(Cheong Lee Ltd.) for knowingly and materially aiding Iran's chemical
weapons programs.  The Administration said there was no evidence the Chinese
government was aware of the transfers.  On June 10, 1997, the State
Department announced suspension of an Exim bank loan for a U.S. firm's
exports to the Nanjing firm above.  According to an October 30, 1997,
Washington Times report, the Nanjing company has recently finished building
in Iran a plant that can be used to manufacture  equipment suitable for a
chemical weapons program.   A London Daily Telegraph report of May 24, 1998
said that Iran had recently received from China's Sinochem 500 tons of
material banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Iran has
been a party since November 1997. 
Other Suppliers
   Among other suppliers, North Korea has an established relationship with
Iran.  The core of Iran's current missile force consists of 200-300 North
Korean-supplied Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, with ranges of 320 km and 500
km respectively.  North Korea has also supplied ten to fifteen mobile
launchers.  Iran reportedly wanted to take delivery of North Korean-made
Nodong 1 missiles (1,000 mile range) when those are ready for export, and
it reportedly has partially funded the development of the missile.  In an
apparently successful attempt to head off deliveries of the Nodong, the
United States, as part of the October 1994 agreement with North Korea on
nuclear issues, began talks with North Korea in April 1996 on limiting North
Korean missile sales to the Middle East.  U.S. officials hailed the talks
as a "good beginning," but the Administration issued a determination (See
Endnote 13.) on May 29, 1996 that entities in Iran and North Korea had
engaged in missile proliferation activities. 
   On August 6, 1997, following a second round of U.S.-North Korea talks
on Middle East missile sales (June 11-13), the United States imposed trade
sanctions on two North Korean firms for missile-related activities believed
to involve Iran and Pakistan.   Iran's Shahab program, assisted primarily
by Russia, is apparently based on the Nodong design.  On June 17, 1998, the
Washington Post reported that North Korea's official media had acknowledged
that North Korea had and would continue to export ballistic missiles,
although no specific technology or recipients were mentioned in the North
Korean announcement.  No U.S.-North Korean missile export control talks have
been held since the June 1997 discussions.  
1.  See CRS Report 94-138, Iran: Conventional Arms Acquisitions; and CRS
Report 98-299, Russian Missile and Nuclear Reactor Transfers to Iran. 
2.  Gertz, Bill.  Russia, China Aid Iran's Missile Program.  Washington
Times, September 10, 1997.  P.1.
3.    Lippman, Thomas.  U.S. Keeps After Russia To Halt Flow of Missile
Technology to Iran.  Washington Post, January 18, 1998. P.A9. 
4.  This law was amended by Section 1408 the FY1996 defense authorization
law (P.L. 104-106) to also sanction the provision to Iran or Iraq of
equipment for chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.  
5.  For further information, see CRS Issue Brief 92056, Chinese
Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Current Policy Issues, and CRS
Report 96-767, Chinese Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Background and Analysis, both by Shirley Kan.  See also: CRS Report 96-572,
Iran: Military Relations With China, by Kenneth Katzman. 
6.  Chinese Shipments Violate Controls.  Jane's Defence Weekly.  July 1,
7.  Gertz, Bill.  China Assists Iran, Libya on Missiles.   Washington Times,
June 16, 1998.   
8.  During 1985-87, China supplied Iran with a small research nuclear
reactor and an electromagnetic isotope separator (calutron). 
9.  Smith, R. Jeffrey.  China Firm That Angered Washington May Get New Deal. 
Washington Post, June 20, 1996.  P. A21.
10.  Pomfret, John.  U.S. May Certify China on Curbing Nuclear Exports. 
Washington Post, September 18, 1997. P.A28. 
11.  These projects are a zero power nuclear reactor and a factory to
produce tubing for nuclear fuel rods.   
12.  The Administration discovered the negotiations and scuttled the sale,
according to a March 13, 1998 Washington Post article, entitled U.S. Action
Stymied China Sale to Iran, by Barton Gellman and John Pomfret. 
13.  See Federal Register, June 12, 1996. P. 29785.  Bureau of Political-
Military Affairs, Department of State.  Public Notice 2404. 
                                END OF FILE

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