Monday, August 01, 2005

Israel Asks Ukraine to Withdraw Illegal Cruise Missiles From Iran

Israel has asked Ukraine to demand that Iran return 12 long-range cruise missiles purchased during the tenure of the previous Ukrainian government via arms dealers the current regime claims were acting illegally, Cursor news agency reported. READ MORE

Israeli media reported that the issue was raised during Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s visit to Israel last week.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has dismissed the information. “All the reports concerning the discussion of the missiles’ withdrawal during Anatoliy Hrytsenko’s visit are considered to be a provocation and aimed at changing the bilateral relations between Ukraine and Middle Eastern countries for the worse,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The missiles, known as the Kh-55 in their Russian/Ukrainian version and as the AS-15 Kent in the NATO version, have a range of 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers, depending on the weight of the warhead. Iran’s surface-to-surface Shihab-3 missiles have a range of only 1,300 kilometers.

In addition, a cruise missile can strike its target from any direction, since the ship that launches it is mobile. The Shihab-3, in contrast, could only be launched at Israel from Iran’s northeast.

However, cruise missiles are slower than ground-launched missiles, and therefore easier for a fighter jet to down in flight.

The missiles’ guidance system enables them to strike its target with great accuracy. Moreover, NATO believes that the Soviets were able to arm the Kh-55 with nuclear warheads.

The Kh-55 was developed in the 1980s by Russian experts, but the Soviet Union decided to manufacture them in Ukraine. Later, however, a U.S.-Soviet arms control agreement dictated the destruction of all medium-range missiles on both sides, which should have included the Kh-55. Thus, the missiles’ very existence constitutes a major treaty violation, and when the U.S. learned several months ago about the sale to Iran, they consequently began an investigation. It later emerged that eight of the missiles were also sold to China.

A parallel Ukrainian investigation, which was first reported a few months ago by Britain’s Financial Times, found that the sale was arranged via a fictitious company established for the purpose on Cyprus, and that the export papers falsely declared the missiles’ destination to be the Russian defense ministry. The Ukrainian prosecution also said that a Russian company had promised to supply spare parts for the Iranian missiles.

Kiev told Israel that the warheads had been dismantled before the missiles were sold to Iran, but Tehran can undoubtfully make new warheads, experts claim.