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The Iran-North Korea Connection By: Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, June 07, 2005


More than a year ago two able political-military analysts, former general officers Paul Vallely and Tom McInerney, wrote about a “web of terror” that crossed the artificial boundaries of nation, movement, organization, ideology, or geographical area. This concept of a vast network of deadly connections was outlined in their excellent work, Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror. It was a startling concept in large measure because the notion of such a deadly global network is contrary to America’s cultural, organizational, and political stereotypes.

We Americans are accustomed to labeling and categorizing: we like to say “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Such artificial organization - by ideology, nation, or locale - is dangerous when it obscures the reality of the strategy and tactics that our country’s enemies use against us. We ignored the Saddam-al Qaeda connection because we said they couldn’t work together. One was sectarian the other religious. We think that Shia and Sunni will not cooperate, that Arabs and Europeans produce different breeds of terrorist, and that non-Muslim Asians will have little or nothing to do with Islamic countries or movements. All this is patent nonsense. Unless we accept the reality of the situation and act accordingly, we are in big trouble.

For the past few months I have been completing a manuscript on these linkages – expanding upon the generals’ brilliant web of terror concept - particularly in regard to North Korean demarches to the Islamofascist world and into the Western Hemisphere. The facts are that these linkages are much more extensive that previously thought. It may – as in the Oil for Food scandal in Iraq – take regime change and exposure of secret files before we ever understand the incredibly complex, comprehensive nature of the collaboration between and among these states, organizations, and movements. Of one thing we can be absolutely certain: this web of terror is bound together by a glue of total hatred directed at America, at our freedoms, and at the culture of the West. All terror masters are allied in that goal; they will settle differences among themselves after we are defeated.

Corroborating this deadly trend are the latest reports from Iran that detail how North Korea has supported Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Again, because of our cultural blinders, we have been reluctant to look much further east than Pakistan to seek those who are assisting Iran with its nuclear R&D. Sure, some observers say, we know that the North Koreans are there, but because of the differences we minimize the effectiveness of the collaboration. But think for a minute how ridiculous that concept sounds. Who, for example, are our two most solid treaty partners in Asia? Japan and South Korea share out geopolitical goals and participate in joint defense projects. Why can we handily bridge cultural gaps to produce credible results, but discount the notion that our enemies are capable of doing something similar?

North Korea has a several-year old relationship with the mullah regime in Iran that includes a technological spectrum of evil: medium range missiles, nuclear weapons, poison gas, and warhead guidance systems. It is possible, but not verified at this time, that the Kim Jong Il regime is also using the mullah’s Italian crime contacts to launder heroin. Regardless, the known degree of cooperation is sufficiently serious to warrant concern.

A recent report cited in World News Daily, notes that reliable intelligence sources have revealed that Iran has received plutonium components from North Korea. Supposedly these components are sufficient to allow Iran to assemble a plutonium-based nuclear weapon. The CIA heard as far back as 1994 about a North Korea-Iran plutonium connection but it was unverified until recently. That seems an extraordinarily long time to verify such as essential element of information, and is another indicator of how serious our lack of human intelligence gathering capability is inside both hostile countries.

Given the reports coming out of Gadhafi’s Libya that North Korea was a major supplier of partially processed uranium ore to the dictator’s weapons program, we ought not be shocked that Iran was in on the action also. According to Bill Gertz’s Geostrategy Direct, President Bush was “stunned” by the news that the North Korean plutonium supply had advanced Iran’s program dramatically. Not to be unnecessarily redundant, but these continual, repeated poor performances by CIA and State intelligence services are singularly unhelpful to the president and to the country. Drastic reform is overdue, especially at State.

Not to be outdone by US agency ineptitude, UN atomic “watchdog” Mohamed El Baradei issued a report – presumably from near Pluto where he maintains a house – praising Iran for its announced Wednesday decision “to continue suspension of its uranium enrichment program.” The crack UN inspector – last caught flatfooted over Libya’s announcement that it too had a nuclear program – also congratulated Iran for continuing talks with the “EU-3,” France, Germany, and the UK. With this level of performance why would we need a tough ambassador at the UN?

Making things even more unpleasant in the region is the caution by the CIA that Iran “could immediately assemble several nuclear warheads” for the mullah’s Shahab-3 intermediate range missile [emphasis added]. And where did this mysterious missile originate? From North Korea, of course. A series of reports from as far back as the late 1980s (the tail end of the brutal Iraq-Iran wars) tell that Iran has had serious interest in acquiring medium and intermediate range missiles. Confirmed reports place Iranian scientists and engineers inside North Korea in 1993 when the Nodong class missile was first tested and unveiled. Disquieting data provided by Iranian resistance members details extensive cooperation between Iran and North Korea in warhead development.

The Shahab class missile is simply Iran’s version of the North Korean Nodong. With improvements the Shahab-3 is rated at a 1,000 mile range with almost a one-ton payload. That is a tweak in capability over the Nodong’s originally announced 800 mile range. Even more troubling is that Iran is working with North Korea to extend missile capabilities into the Taepodong class. This could double the range albeit with a smaller payload. But how large does a nuclear warhead or a poison gas warhead have to be to cause unacceptable casualties?

These latest revelations concerning the Iran-North Korea connection raise extremely difficult diplomatic and political-military issues. Further complicating the entire issue is that this is simply one strand of the web of terror that must be addressed. Other deadly connections stretch from Pyongyang across the globe to Venezuela and to other Islamofascist or autocratic states like Syria, Egypt, and Libya. These challenges are global in nature. We must address them with global solutions that until now have been lacking.


Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea. He returned recently from an embed with soldiers in Iraq and has launched a web site called Support American Soldiers to assist traveling soldiers.


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