Iran launches satellite and concern grows in the West

The advance of the Iranian missile program is followed by the Western nations, amid concern over possible use for nuclear weapons.

Iran announced Saturday that it has successfully launched a satellite into its highest orbit yet, the latest episode in a program that the West fears that can improve Tehran’s ballistic missiles.

The announcement comes at a time of great tension in the Middle East over the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and just days after Iran and Pakistan engaged in air strikes mutual.

The Soraya satellite reached its orbit about 750 kilometers from the Earth’s surface with a three-stage Qaem 100 rocket, the state news agency IRNA reported, which did not immediately explain its function.

The Minister of Telecommunications, Isa Zarepour, noted that the launch had a payload of 50 kilos. The launch is part of the space program of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in addition to the civil space program, the report noted.

For Western countries, this could mean that Tehran can have greater precision when launching ballistic missiles. At the moment there was no independent confirmation that Iran had successfully placed the satellite into orbit. Neither the U.S. military nor the State Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

The United States previously stated that the Islamic Republic’s satellite launch defies a United Nations Security Council resolution and called on Tehran not to carry out activities related to nuclear-weapon-capable ballistic missiles.

The threat assessment worldwide by 2023 carried out by the United States intelligence community noted that the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the deadlines” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, since they use similar technology.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles can be used to carry nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear program is now enriching uranium to a level close to that needed to make this type of weapons after the failure of its agreement with international powers.

Tehran has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear weapons, if it decides to produce them, as repeatedly warned by the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has always denied that its goal is nuclear weapons and maintains that its space program, like its nuclear activity, has purely civilian purposes. However, US intelligence agencies and the IAEA claim that it had an organized military nuclear program until 2003.

The involvement of the Revolutionary Guard in the launches, as well as the ability to fire the rocket from a mobile launch pad, worries the West. The Guard, which reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, revealed its nuclear program in 2020.

In December, Iran launched a capsule capable of transporting animals into orbit while preparing human missions for the coming years.

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