South Asia Crisis: Effects on the Middle East Page: 3 of 6
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In part because of the potential for Pakistani-Iranian rivalry, Iran's efforts to acquire
strategic capabilities and technology from Pakistan have had mixed success. When Iran
restarted its nuclear program in 1984 (it suspended the program in 1979 after the fall of
the Shah), Iran reportedly sought Pakistani help but was rebuffed.2 However, in 1987,
following a visit to Iran by A.Q.Khan (considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear
program), Pakistan signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran and 39 Iranian
scientists went to train in Pakistan.3 The training in Pakistan represented an Iranian
attempt to rebuild its core of nuclear scientists, many of whom had left Iran following the
1979 Islamic revolution. Western fears grew in 1991 when Pakistan's then Chief of Staff
Mirza Aslam Beg publicly called for further nuclear cooperation with Iran. However, in
July 1995, U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States was
unaware of any official nuclear cooperation that resulted from Beg's pronouncement,
although the United States could not rule out covert or unofficial nuclear contacts between
Pakistan and Iran.
Even if Iran succeeds in obtaining nuclear assistance from Pakistan, it is not clear
that Iran's nuclear weapons efforts would accelerate significantly. Iran has been receiving
nuclear technology from Russia and, to a lesser extent, from China, but U.S. officials
have stated that Iran is still about seven to ten years away from a nuclear weapons
No evidence has come to light indicating that Pakistan and Iran are cooperating to
develop ballistic missile technology. However, both sought the M-11 missile from China
(Pakistan reportedly received the missile, Iran did not), and both are developing medium
range missiles based on the North Korean Nodong missile design. Pakistan's Nodong-
based Ghauri missile, flight tested by Pakistan in April 1998, has a reported range of 930
miles.4 Iran's Shahab-3 missile program, which is receiving assistance from Russian
entities, is believed to be about 18 months from flight testing, also is based on the Nodong
design and is expected to have a range of about 800 miles.5 If relations with Pakistan
improve, Iran could turn toward Pakistan for technical assistance, especially if the United
States succeeds in its efforts to persuade Russia to prevent its entities (firms and
universities) from aiding Iran's Shahab program.6
Iran and Pakistan have had limited conventional military-to-military ties. In
November 1991, the Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard said that the Guard
enjoys a "strategic relationship" with Muslim countries like Pakistan. He and his
subordinates made several visits to Pakistan during the 1980s, and Pakistan apparently
helped the Guard improve its tactics during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). In February
2 "Iran's Weapons of Mass Destruction." Jane's Intelligence Review, Special Report No. 6.
1995, p. 11.
3 Ibid., p.12, and Ritchelson, Philip. "Iranian Military Resurgence: Scope, Motivations, and
Implications for Regional Security." Armed Forces and Society. Vol. 21, No. 4, Summer 1995,
4 Anderson, John Ward. "Pakistan Claims It has New Missile." Washington Post, June 2, 1998.
5 "Israel: Iran Could Build Nodong in Two Years." Jane's Defence Weekly, April 30, 1997.
6 For further information on Russian assistance to Iran's missile program, see CRS Report 98-
299, Russian Missile Technology and Nuclear Reactor Transfers to Iran.
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South Asia Crisis: Effects on the Middle East, report, June 5, 1998; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc815761/m1/3/: accessed September 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.