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North Korea: Ally of US Enemies in Middle East

 By: Marianne B. Conway
North Korean Nuclear, Missile, Arms & Engineering Sales to Iran/Hezbollah/Syria:

North Korea has long sold weapons to Iran, a relationship which has reportedly developed into mutual development of missile and nuclear technology, along with North Korean support to Hezbollah (often spelled "Hizballah" by the U.S. government), the terrorist group and Iranian proxy force, and Hamas, rulers of the Gaza strip and practioneers of terrorism.

North Korea has also sold its expertise in special operations and underground facilities, long used against U.S. and RoK forces in Korea, to these clients, helping Hezbollah achieve unexpected success in its 2006 war with Israel. The North Korean/Iran relationship has also included Syria, and Pyongyang has had substantial dealings with Pakistan and Egypt, among others.

"Evidence appeared in the form of several intercepted shipments of North Korean arms bound for Iran in 2009," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in 2010. "Three vessels were intercepted, which contained North Korean weapons that Western intelligence and Israeli intelligence officials and non-government experts believe were bound for Hezbollah and Hamas, terrorist groups on the official U.S. list of international terrorist organizations. The largest of these shipments was aboard a ship that was searched in Dubai before departing for Iran in July 2009. All three ships contained North Korean components for 122 mm Grad rockets and rocket launchers.

The shipment intercepted in Dubai contained 2,030 detonators for the Grad rockets and related electric circuits and solid fuel propellant for rockets. The 122 mm rockets have a range of about 25 miles. Iran, particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is known to have supplied significant quantities of these rockets and rocket launchers to Hezbollah and Hamas, which have frequently fired them into Israel."

The report went on to note that in late 2009, tons of North Korean weapons including rocker launchers and surface-to-air missle parts were interepted at a Thai airport, apparently on the way to Iran.

These reports are important to bear in mind as the United States increases pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. The Iranian/North Korean relationship may allow unexpectedly rapid development by one or both of the partners as they share information and best practices. In addition, it is known that both nations have highly sophisticated defenses against likely attack, from the U.S. and South Korea in the case of North Korea, and the U.S. and Israel in the case of Iran.

However, the full extent of these defensive positions may be underestimated, especially by those unfamiliar with the sometimes astonishing capability of North Korea to create underground facilities, including factories and even airfields. The nation was subjected to massive bombing during the 1950-3 Korean War, and its leaders determined that they would do everything possible to reduce the importance of America's air superiority in any future campaign.

Finally, the strength of these nations in special operations and their potential cooperation in this arena as well certainly increases concerns about a competent and perhaps even surprising counter-attack in the event of preemptive action by the West, as well as the potential of even more sophisticated terrorist tactics.

For example, there is evidence North Korea has trained Iranian operators in advanced infiltration techniques honed in decades of operations against U.S. and South Korean forces in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
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