Iranian officials announced last Tuesday that the country is preparing to launch three new satellites into space, renewing concerns from defense experts about Iran’s ongoing research into long-range ballistic missile technology that could help it fire a nuclear weapon at Western nations.
Mohsen Bahrami, the director of Iran’s space agency— which has long been suspected of providing cover for weapons research—announced that Iran would launch its newest satellite, dubbed “Friendship,” later this year.
“The Dousti (Friendship) satellite built by experts at Sharif University of Technology is the first satellite which will be launched in the second half of this (Iranian) year,” which began on March 20, Bahrami was quoted as saying by the country’s state-controlled press.
Defense experts and former U.S. officials said that the test is likely cover for Iran to pursue illicit intercontinental ballistic missile technology, which could enable the Islamic Republic to fire a nuclear weapon over great distances.
Efforts are also being made to launch two other satellites within the next year, according to the announcement, which has raised concerns among Western defense experts about the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of technology that would enable it to fire nuclear weapons over great distances.
“Iran has always used its satellite program as cover for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. Recently, however, the Defense Ministry has also bragged that it has made its UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] satellite-guided in order to extend their range and bypass the need for line-of-sight control,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and expert on rogue regimes.
Iran’s interest in this technology, combined with its newfound freedom under last summer’s nuclear agreement, should raise red flags on the international stage, Rubin said.
“Add to that mix that Iran can trade and sell both technologies with North Korea in exchange for inspection-proof nuclear laboratory space,” Rubin said. “In effect, in a three-fer for the Islamic Republic, all courtesy of the noxious mix of Obama’s ambition and [Secretary of State John] Kerry’s incompetence.”
Iranian officials further disclosed over the weekend that construction had begun on an advanced satellite with remote sensing capabilities.
U.S. officials have said that Iran’s space research could be applied to the construction of intercontinental ballistic missiles, work that is prohibited under United Nations resolutions governing the nuclear agreement.
Iran’s test firing of ballistic missiles has emerged as a hot button issue in recent months as the Obama administration has worked against claims that the tests violate the nuclear deal. The Obama administration has claimed that the tests violate the agreement in spirit only.