Photos show many structures surrounded by large berms of dirt.

Washington/Dubai:

Recent satellite images show major expansions at two of Iran’s main ballistic missile facilities, which two U.S. researchers have assessed as increasing missile production, three senior Iranian officials have confirmed.

The expansion of the sites follows an October 2022 deal in which Iran agreed to supply missiles to Russia, which is seeking them for its war against Ukraine. According to US officials, Tehran also supplies missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, both members of the Iranian-backed axis of resistance against Israel.

Images taken by commercial satellite firm Planet Labs of the Mudars military base in March and the Khojair missile production complex in April show more than 30 new buildings at the two sites, both located near Tehran.

Photos reviewed by Reuters showed many structures surrounded by large berms of dirt. Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey said such earthworks are associated with missile development and are designed to prevent an explosion in a building from detonating highly flammable materials into nearby structures. Is.

Based on photos of the sites, Lewis said the expansion began last year at Khojir in August and Modres in October.

Experts say Iran’s arsenal is already the largest in the Middle East, estimated at more than 3,000 missiles, including models designed to carry conventional and nuclear warheads.

Three Iranian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed that Modarres and Khojir were being expanded to increase production of conventional ballistic missiles.

“Why shouldn’t we?” said an official.

Another Iranian official said some of the new buildings would also allow for a doubling of drone production. Drones and missile parts will be sold to Russia, drones to the Houthis and missiles to Hezbollah, the source added.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the comments from Iranian officials.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the complex expansion. Tehran has previously denied providing drones and missiles to Russia and the Houthis. Hezbollah’s media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Houthi spokesman Mohammad Abd Salam said Iran’s increase in weapons production would have no impact in Yemen because the Houthis develop and produce aircraft independent of Iran.

Lewis analyzed the images with Decker Eveleth, an associate research analyst at CNA, from Planet Labs, a Washington think tank, as part of the Middlebury Project that monitors Iranian missile infrastructure. .

“We know Russia is looking for low-cost missile capabilities, and they’ve gone to Iran and North Korea,” Lewis said.

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied transferring North Korean missiles to Russia. The Russian embassy in Washington and North Korea’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

The two American researchers said in separate interviews that it was not clear from the images what kind of missiles would be produced at the new facilities, which appear to be under construction.

Any increase in Tehran’s missile or drone production would concern the United States, which has said Iranian drones help Russia sustain attacks on Ukrainian cities and Israel because they target Iran-backed groups, including Hezbollah. Prevents attacks.

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the researchers’ analysis.

A spokesman for the US National Security Council declined to confirm their assessment, adding that the US has implemented a number of measures, including sanctions, to limit Iranian missile and drone production and exports.

Reuters reported in February that Iran had sent surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to Russia for use against Ukraine. Iran refused to supply the weapons. Washington said it could not confirm the transfer but assumed Tehran intended to supply the missiles to Moscow.

New buildings, plums of dirt

Shahid Madris and Khojair are overseen by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite paramilitary organization that plays a central role in Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. It controls large parts of the Iranian economy and answers directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

These complexes have long been associated with the development and production of Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and rockets for the country’s space program.

On November 12, 2011, a massive explosion destroyed a large section of Shadd Modres attached to solid-fueled missiles, killing 17 IRGC officers. Among them was General Hassan Moghadam, whom Iran considers the “architect” of its ballistic missile program.

Another Iranian official said construction work at Shahid Modres, which resumed after the 2011 explosion, accelerated last year.

“I think the Iranians may have chosen not to berm the buildings (before the explosion) because they didn’t want to draw attention to them,” Lewis said. “They learned the hard way.”

Eveleth and Lewis said the sites’ long history with Iran’s missile program — Shahid Modres is considered by some experts to be its birthplace — and the numerous mounds of dirt support their assessment that Tehran has increased production of ballistic missiles. Is.

“When we see that you basically have an entire production line that’s bermed like that, it’s usually a missile,” Eveleth said.

(Other than the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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