London, 10 May – Iran is preparing to launch two new satellites into space, according to Iranian military leaders, but American national security experts believe that this may just be a cover-up for the test-firing of advanced intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
The Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi announced the proposed launch on Monday.
He said: “Now, we have two ready-to-launch satellites; one of them is Amir Kabir sensing satellite and another one is Nahid telecommunication satellite and over 97 percent of preparation works have been carried out on them.”
But it is worth noting that Iran has a history of using space launches to cover up tests of its intercontinental ballistic missiles programme, linked to their nuclear programme.
US officials and national security experts are especially worried because the expertise needed to launch a satellite into space is comparable to that needed to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles with the potential to hit US soil.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, remarked that these type of launches have only become more common sine the 2015 nuclear deal.
He said: “That Iran uses its satellite program as a cover for ballistic missile development is no secret although, quite realistically, since John Kerry loosened restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, they don’t need to hide quite so much. The key thing to recognise is that we’re no longer talking about just Iran’s capability.”
This latest test comes as Trump administration engages in a review of the nuclear agreement between the US, Iran, and the other P5+1 countries. US officials told the Washington Free Beacon that this review will provide a plan to “meet the challenges Iran poses”.
One State Department official said: “As Secretary [of State, Rex] Tillerson said, the [Donald] Trump administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our Iran policy. Once we have finalised our conclusions, we will meet the challenges Iran poses with clarity and conviction.”
US officials and national security experts, like Rubin, are paying close attention to the missile programmes of both Iran and North Korea; two nations that have become incredibly hostile in the past few weeks and have often traded illicit missile technology.
Rubin said: “When it comes to nuclear technology, Iran and North Korea are like sorority sisters swapping clothes or an old married couple sharing a toothbrush. What happens in Tehran doesn’t stay in Tehran.”
Both nations have made a point of displaying its military prowess since Trump took office, which concerns US national security experts but it should be noted that both the military power of both nations combined is significantly less than the US military might.
Saeed Ghasseminejad, a research fellow and Iranian regime expert at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, called on the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on Iran to push back its provocative behaviour.
He said: “The best way to stop Iran’s ballistic missile program is to impose sanctions on the industries involved in the program. This includes the petrochemical, mining and metallurgy, telecommunications, automotive, oil and gas, and electronics industries. The U.S. used the industry-based sanctions to curb Iran’s nuclear program and they were very effective.”