UPDATE: Times of Israel – American officials tell the Fox News outlet the military has not detected new satellites in orbit, indicating that Iran’s launch earlier today may have failed. This is not immediately confirmed by the Pentagon.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps say they successfully launched the country’s first “military satellite” into an orbit around earth. This comes after Iran announced new anti-ship missiles with a range of 700km and drones that have a range of 1,500km and may be armed with anti-tank missiles. Iran is on steroids in its attempt to show off its military capabilities at sea, in the air and in space.
Israel strongly condemned Iran’s attempt to launch the military satellite, noting that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is a Foreign Terror Organization, designated by the US. “Today’s attempt at launching a satellite is just a façade for Iran’s continued development of advanced missile technology. Both Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM’s) and missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry said.
“Today’s launch is a breach both of Security Council’s resolution 2231, and Iran’s previous commitments to the international community. The Iranian regime continues to focus its efforts on military aggression, instead of mending its failure in dealing with the Coronavirus’s outbreak, that has affected tens of thousands of Iran’s citizens. Israel calls upon the international community to condemn this latest launch, and impose further sanctions on the Iranian regime. All in order to deter it from continuing such dangerous and opposing activity,” Israel’s statement said.
Iranian media were plastered with images Wednesday morning of the large white rocket with an Iranian flag preparing to launch. Iran has a mixed record shooting things into space. It has an advanced program that has launched satellites in the past, including joint research projects with Russia, China and Thailand.
Its first breakthrough was Omid, a domestically made satellite that was a major achievement for Tehran’s satellites. It was sent into orbit in 2009 on a homemade missile. Iran launched imaging satellites in 2011 and 2012. However, more recent launches have generally failed to put satellites in orbit.
Iran has an advanced rocket program with a large variety of ballistic missiles. Combining those with its desire to be a space power has helped it achieve success. However it appears that it suffered a setback in August 2019 at its Semnan launch site when a rocket appeared to fail. US President Donald Trump tweeted photos of the failure. Iran thus had at least three failures in 2019.
It also appears that Iran’s space program increased after the Iran Deal was signed after years of not achieving at the levels Tehran wanted. The recent attempts in 2019 and 2020 are evidence of this. It comes in the context of all the programs Iran is ramping up, including the nuclear program, long-range drones, missiles and ballistic missiles, as well as weapons trafficking of drones and precision ordnance to Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and Houthis.
Of interest in the April 22 launch is that Iran specifically says this satellite was launched by the IRGC. The IRGC is Iran’s revolutionary guards, sometimes viewed as an “elite” force, but more accurately it should be seen as the way in which paramilitary revolutionary theocratic elements have swallowed the Iranian state. The IRGC has displaced not only part of Iran’s economy, foreign policy, intelligence services and government, but also the army, air force and now space program. The IRGC inserts itself in every crisis from coronavirus to flooding. It also harasses the US Navy in the Persian Gulf and is responsible for threatening Israel.
IRGC head Salami praised the launch in Tasnim and Fars news in Iran as an important achievement.
“We have made a leap in the field of expanding territory and strategic intelligence….Today, we can see the world from space, and this means expanding the strategic intelligence of the powerful defense force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said. “The deployment of this multi-purpose satellite in space, both in the field of information technology and intelligence battles, can produce strategic added value for us, and in intelligence warfare, it creates powerful grounds for us.”
He went on to note that achieving these technological successes for “Islamic Iran” is important because it makes Iran a member of one of the world’s top technologies. “We now form the front lines of technological talents…the launch of the satellite is not limited to defense and military issues, adding that the realization of this important goal will lead the country to great progress in various fields, so it is a strategic achievement for our Islamic system.”
There were doubts on Wednesday afternoon if the launch was successful. If successful this means the IRGC use of the satellite, called Nour-1, is important for Iran’s regional strategy. The satellite is now relaxing at 425 km from earth the IRGC says.
Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated the IRGC. The IRGC Aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh was not mentioned in the dispatches, but rather the head of the IRGC, Hossein Salami. The launch was carried out from the desert southeast of Tehran in an area called Dasht-e Kavir in the early hours of Wednesday. That Iran specifies that this is a “military satellite” clearly has ramifications for the Middle East, if the satellite actually works as Iran says it does and can send images or provide other information for Iran’s IRGC. The IRGC has sought to create long-distance military capabilities to challenge the US and Israel in recent years. It has proved successful in some attacks, such as the one on Saudi Arabia using 25 drones and cruise missiles in September 2019.