by STRATFOR Intelligence

Week of June 4, 2002

"A Russian general's statement about Iran's nukes fails to register with media. Sometime a slip of the tongue is so incredible that no amount of doctoring can explain it. And sometimes a slip of the tongue is as intentional as could be. Take an appearance by Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky. He gave a briefing on Friday in Moscow during the Bush-Putin summit and was asked about whether Iran actually fired the Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile in a successful test earlier this month. The second question was whether Iran can threaten Israel, Russia or the United States with its nuclear and missile programs.

Then the Russian general takes a surprise turn: 'Now, as to whether or not Iran has tested something like that. Iran does have nuclear weapons,' Baluyevsky said. 'Of course, these are non-strategic nuclear weapons. I mean these are not ICBMs with a range of more than 5,500 kilometers and more. But as a military man, I see no danger of aggression against Russia by Iran. As for the danger of Iran's attack on the United States, the danger is zero.'

Remarkably, the other journalists at the briefing completely missed the importance of the general's assertion. The Russian deputy chief of staff has just said on the record that Iran has nuclear weapons, but he stresses they are 'non-strategic nuclear weapons.'
What does that mean? How many purported tactical nuclear weapons does Iran have?

In the early 1990s, Iran was said to have obtained what turned out to be inoperable nuclear bombs from the former Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union. By 1998, Iranian documents had been smuggled to the West that detailed Teheran's problem of opening the locks that kept two such nuclear weapons inoperable. At the time, U.S. intelligence officials called this disinformation by the Iranian opposition."