China is circumventing international sanctions against Iran by enlisting North Korea’s help in providing the Islamic state with its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles and the technical expertise to make those nuclear warhead-capable missiles operational. And now the Communist giant is threatening to come to Iran’s defense should the missile or nuclear sites be attacked.

Referring this critical problem to the United Nations won’t work because China has veto power in the Security Council.

The United States and the West must therefore bring all the pressure to bear against China they can — and do it immediately.

Time literally is running out.

The Revolutionary Guards, under orders from the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have long been preparing for war, knowing that their nuclear bomb program could invite a preemptive strike by Israel or America.

Media outlets quote Chinese Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong as warning that in case of attack, China should not hesitate to protect Iran, even if it means launching World War III.

The Iranian-owned state media ran big headlines recently quoting Chinese President Hu Jintao as saying that he has ordered the Chinese Navy to prepare for war and that, in case of an attack on Iran, China will defend Iran.

When Mohammad Ali Jafari was appointed the chief commander of the Guards by Khamenei in September 2007, he formed 31 command-and-control centers in and around Iran that could operate independently in case of war. Each center is authorized to suppress any unrest and to confront any enemy.

Jafari also brought Iran’s Basij militia — a group of pro-government vigilantes — under Guard command to ensure greater coordination while at the same time forming thousands of Basij special units to suppress any uprisings that could arise after a possible attack.

Expecting war, Jafari weeks ago ordered the formation of the 32nd command-and-control center just for the security of Tehran, the capital of Iran. Now the Guards have assigned two divisions to protect Tehran.

The Guards at the same time have established hundreds of underground ballistic missile silos across Iran to achieve two goals:

First, these missiles, which have predetermined targets, could be fired from multiple sites toward an enemy.

Second, multiple hidden sites would make it difficult for satellites to pinpoint any launch and therefore lower the possibility of the missiles being taken out prior to launch.

The Guards have openly announced that American military bases will be targeted in retaliation for any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Sources within Iran reveal that U.S. military bases in France, Hungary, Italy and Germany are among the targets.

As I revealed in May, the Guards possess ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads that have a range of over 2,000 miles, which could reach several capitals in Western Europe. The opposition group Green Experts of Iran now reports that the Guards have also obtained intercontinental ballistic missiles from China.

In recent years, the Revolutionary Guards put everything they had into boosting their military capabilities by developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

But they failed.

They then turned to China, which delivered to Iran 11 Dong Feng 3A missiles whose range exceeds 1,600 miles.

By 2009, concurrent with the increased in tensions between Iran and the international community, as well as the intensity of the unrest inside Iran, the Guards began talks with China and finalized an $11 billion deal in which China agreed to provide the Guards with advanced ICBMs, DF-31s, which have a minimum 4,300-mile range and can carry nuclear warheads.

China also agreed to help design several of Iran’s missile programs and provide expert training inside Iran. The contract called for delivery of six ICBMs, six mobile units for the missiles and 40 blast chambers to be assembled by the Revolutionary Guards inside a military complex.

Sources reveal that the missiles were delivered about a year ago, but the Guards failed in setting this missile project in motion.

Given the mounting international pressures against Iran’s nuclear program, even China announced it cannot further cooperate in Iran’s militaristic ambitions — unless sanctions can be circumvented.

According to the Green Experts, in order to resolve the basic problems of the missile project, a joint delegation of Chinese and North Korean experts traveled to Iran. Ultimately it was agreed that in exchange for $7 billion, hardware, installation and launch of the technology and the necessary training for the project would be handled by the North Koreans, since Pyongyang doesn’t recognize the U.N. sanctions.

North Korea, for its part, guaranteed that it would do its utmost in bolstering the Chinese-equipped missile project, and eventually situate its experts in Iran so that in critical conditions, the missiles will remain operational.

It is now logical to conclude that the explosions that occurred at the IRGC base 28 miles west of Tehran on Nov. 12 were due to Iranian missile experts working on the Chinese DF-31 missile.

Sources reveal that following the explosions at the Guards’ base and the loss of many key commanders running the missile program, a meeting was organized between the Revolutionary Guards and representatives of North Korea. It was agreed at that meeting that North Korea would expedite sending their missile experts to Iran — as of Dec. 10 — to get the missile system up and running.

With the Obama administration and European countries failing to implement crippling sanctions against Iran and openly stating that a military option could be devastating to the global economy, it seems that the radicals ruling Iran will soon not only have nuclear bombs but also the means to deliver them almost anywhere on the globe. There’s no time to waste.

Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the author of the award-winning book,A Time to Betray. He is a senior Fellow with EMPact America and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).