Nov. 21, 2005— -- Iran has built, with the help of North Korea, dozens of underground tunnels and facilities for the construction of nuclear-capable missiles, according to Alireza Jafardazeh, a Washington D.C.-based consultant and former spokesman for the National Council of the Resistance of Iran, an Iranian opposition group.
Speaking this morning at the National Press Club, Jafarzadeh described an "extensive large-scale operation" for the development of nuclear-capable missiles "in the most sophisticated, hidden way" in tunnels in a mountain range east of Tehran. Jafarzadeh named several Iranian entities involved in Iran's missile program, overseen by the Hemmat Industries Group. He said that eyewitnesses describe the facilities, begun in 1989, as an "underground township." Jafarzadeh added that, in addition to work on the Shahab family of missiles, Hemmat is overseeing work on a new long-range missile, Ghadar, which is still in development and has a projected range of 1,300 to 1,900 miles.
Reports of North Korean cooperation with Iran on its nuclear and missile programs have surfaced previously. In July 2005, Reuters cited a three-page intelligence report charging that North Koreans were teaching secret graduate-level courses at Tehran's Polytechnic University in nuclear technology. The UK's Telegraph reported in June 2005 that North Korean specialists in underground construction had arrived in Tehran to help design their facilities that would better shield Iran's nuclear program from international scrutiny.
Jafarzadeh's allegations come on the heels of the latest report on Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which reveals that Iran received a document from the A.Q. Khan network in 1987 describing the "casting and machining" uranium into "hemispherical forms," a process directly relevant to the design of a nuclear warhead.
A State Department official contacted by ABC News about Jafarzadeh's charges was unable to corroborate them but did confirm that the Hemmat Industries Group was sanctioned in May 2003 as the unlawful recipient of missile technology from Moldova. The Shahab-3 was flight-tested by Iran in 2004. It is known to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has a range of 1,500 kilometers. Experts do not know how many such missiles Iran has produced or deployed.