Below from my column in today’s New York Sun: detail of the Iran observers was confirmed in public (open source) yesterday in Congress testimony. Additional note: the Iranians are now ready for the US air strikes. The North Korea test (and there may be a second test) was a full scale exercise in wartime conditions. North Korea trained Iran’s rocket brigades. The Iran warhead is North Korean design.
First, on Tuesday, July 4, North Korea stunned its East Asian neighbors and rocked the U.N. Security Council by firing not only the Taepodong-2 missile that had been displayed on its launch pad for two weeks but also by launching up to nine more smaller missiles from its rocket brigades’ arsenals. Japan was the angriest of the six-party talking states and demanded sanctions from the United Nations. China expressed its frustration as well as restating its fear that any confrontation would trigger a flood of desperate North Korean refugees into Manchuria. Even Russia was unusually alarmed. The salve to the crisis was that the Taepodong missile had failed within a minute of its launch and fell haphazardly into the Sea of Japan along with the smaller missiles. The press smirked that Kim Jong Il needed more smarts before he was ready to be the big bad wolf of Asia.
Unfortunately, the missile firings were not a failure. The confirmed fact from American observers is that the exercise was a complete success.
Up till now, North Korea has had a first-strike policy where it, as the intended aggressor, gets to prepare for a sneak attack by prepositioning, fueling and firing its missiles against multiple targets. The July 4th exercise was instead a rapid response test to a simulated American air attack. Prior to the launch, the North Korean rocket brigades dispersed into the countryside as if under air attack. The military maintained radio silence to simulate the confusion after America’s first and second waves took down the communications grids, as well as to practice the necessary communication security under American surveillance. Then the Taepodong-2 was fired, simulating a strategic weapon missile launch, followed by tactical weapons chosen randomly from the mobile brigades. The missiles landed in the Sea of Japan, but not ineptly. North Korean trawlers were prepositioned at the landing sites to observe the exercise. The Taepodong-2 missile performed correctly, simulating a nuclear weapon strike on American allies or assets.
Crucially, observing this exercise were 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including among them members of the elite command and control group, the Partisans of the Mahdi (the Ayatollah Khomeini). The Iranians had in part paid for the North Korean exercise, because Iran is a North Korean arms client. The Iranians were on hand because their own strategic and tactical missile system is based upon the designs of, and built by, North Korean technicians (from Chinese plans proliferated in the early 1990s). The Iranians were preparing for the expected American air attacks against Iran’s strategic assets now being provoked in the proxy war on Israel.