Iran’s No Longer Moscow’s Satellite
// Moscow is ready to hand over Tehran to the UN Security Council
Friendship of Nations
The Russian Space Forces have launched Sinah-1, the Iranian first spy satellite. Moscow sent Iran to the space at a particularly uncomfortable moment. Yesterday, world leaders slammed the words of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had earlier urged to “wipe Israel off the map”. The blunt Iranian leader left Russia vulnerable and made the reporting of the Iranian nuke program at the UN Security Council almost inevitable. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov literally admitted yesterday that Moscow would no longer keep on defending Tehran. Imposing sanction on the country now looks only a matter of time.
Relations between Moscow and Tehran have been developing notably fast over the past days. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the Iranian nuke program. The presidents stated that the further strenghtening of Russian-Iranian ties is of mutual interest and help to keep the regional and international stability, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. On Wednesday, Iranian Vice-President Parviz Davoudi arrived to Moscow to attend the session of prime ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization where Iran has the status of an observer. Mr. Davoudi already declared that his country would promote the cooperation with the SCO-nations. The launch of two Iranian satellites from the space center in Plesetsk was to become the ultimate manifestation of the Russian-Iranian deep friendship.
Iranians openly declared their space ambitions back in 2003 when the country’s defense minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani made a sensational statement saying that Tehran would launch its first satellite with home-produced booster-rocket within eighteen months. The words shocked the West, since the Iranian booster for the satellite could carry a nuclear charge of intercontinental range if needed.
The American pressure on Iran built up right away. Along with Teheran’s nuclear program, the rocket development became one of the two problems to attract the greatest attention.
Russian, in its turn, took steps to mitigate the conflict. For example, Moscow got Tehran round to give up launching the satellite with the booster of their production. Early this year, Tehran accepted the offer to launch from the space center in Plesetsk its satellite with the Russia-made Kosmos-3M booster. Thus, Moscow stripped Washington of arguments to accuse Iran since the country had thus turned from a developer of intercontinental rockets into a user of space services. The Iranian space program initially provided for the creation and launch of three satellites: Mesbah and Sinah-1, designed for the distant reconnaissance of the earth [which actually means, spy satellites] and Zohreh geostationary telecommunications satellite. The Iranian Science, Research and Technology Ministry signed a $10-miillion agreement with Italian Carlo Gavazzi Space in February 2002 to output the 60-kg first satellite. At the same time, Tehran started to build Sinah-1 satellite on its own planning to launch it by the booster made on the basis of Shihab ballistic rocket. Yet, the development of the booster went off the bad start, and so the developer, the Iranian Institute of Applied Research, turned to Russia. Omsk-based Polet design bureau took over the work on the spacecraft. Polet belongs to Polet production associaiton which also outputs Kosmos-3M boosters. It developed 160-kg Sinah-1 small satellite for $8 million. Tehran ordered the construction of Zohreh satellite in Russia as well. It is now being developed at Reshetnev Research and Production Association of Applied Mechanics in Zheleznogorsk (Krasnoyarsk Territory). It is scheduled to be placed into orbit by the Soyuz booster from the space center in Baikonur in 2007.
Russian Prime Minister Fradkov signed a decree way back this February allowing the Defense Ministry to launch from the space center in Plesetsk two Iranian satellites, Mesbah and Sinah-1 by the Kosmos-3M booster-rocker. However, since the Italians were slow working on the former [it may be launched in March 2006, according to the information of Kommersant] only Sinah-1 and seven more other satellites were launched yesterday [see the article below for the details].
Launched into the near-polar orbit, the Iranian satellite can photograph the surface of the earth from the Arctic to the Antarctic with the 3-meter resolution (all the continents will be in the lens of the camera). On top of that, the orbit is sonar-synchronous (Sinah-1 will always be in the sonar rays to recharge its batteries), which will make it possible to photograph the surface in daytime.
Long-Winded Speeches Can Bring Close to the Wind
While Moscow and Tehran were rejoicing themselves over the launch of Iran’s first-ever satellite, other world capitals vehemently discussed another piece of news from Iran. After the phone talk with Vladimir Putin, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited The World without Zionism youth conference on the following day. “Imam Khomeini used to say that the Zionist regime must be wiped off the face of the earth, and with the help of the divine power, the world will soon live without the USA and Israel,” the Iranian leader declared. “If some recognize the Israeli regime under the pressure of the world tyranny or because of confusion, selfishness or avidity, they will burn in the flame of the Islamic fury.”
Diplomats of Western countries immediately condemned the statements of the Iranian president. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aired these views when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was on an official visit in Israel. The Russian official was slow with sharp conclusions. Moscow stated its case yesterday after the reaction to the Iranian president’s statement developed into a large-scale international scandal, foreign offices of the EU denounced Iran and Israel demanded that Iran be expelled from the UN. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad let down both himself and his partners, Vladimir Putin primarily, so the Russian Foreign Ministry did not mince with words. “What I saw on the television is unacceptable. We will inform the Iranian party of that,” Sergey Lavrov stated. “I can’t but admit that this will be an extra argument for those who insist on handing Iran’s nuclear files to the UN Security Council.
Moscow has acted as the major protector of Iran’s interests so far and opposed the reporting of the Iranian nuclear program to the Security Council of the United Nations. But this time around, Russia had no choice. Moscow had to play against Iran so as not to gain an image of the accomplice and associate of the Iranian leadership.
Possible sanctions against Russian companies for the cooperation with Iran posed even a greater threat in this situation. While drawing up the contract for the Iranian satellite, Moscow already had to look for the ways for Omsk’s Polet to avoid American sanction. The $1.6 million deal on the start of Sinah-1 was concluded between the Iranian Institute of Applied Research and the state-owned Rosoboronexort, the only Russian in-between in weapons trade. By the way, the contract on the creation of Zohreh was signed under the similar scheme, Aviaexport mediating this time.
“It’s only a question of money. Any state can order the production and launch of a satellite in Russia,” a source in the Defense Ministry told Kommersant yesterday. “In recent years, Moscow has put into orbit small satellites of the distant reconnaissance of Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey and the UK. Launches for Vietanm and Thailand are now being prepared.”
It also became known yesterday that following the decision of the U.S. Senate, the Congress’ House of Representatives lifted the ban till 2012 on stateside purchases of equipment and services from Russia under the program of the International Space Station irrespective of Moscow’s cooperation with Tehran [see our news]. Now that the situation around Iran and the launch of the satellite have gone from bad to worse, the risk of getting new sanction imposed is increasing.
Having the spy satellite that can monitor all the earth, including the United States, Iran has found itself under the threat of losing Russia’s support in the international arena. It may mean that Tehran will have to make new launches on its own – and burdened with the sanctions that may follow the session of the UN Security Council next week.
What Russia Also Launched
Kosmos-3M light-class rocket-booster started at 10:52, Moscow time, from Plesetsk to put into orbit four small satellites along with Iran’s 160-kg small Sinah-1. Among the satellites is 80-kg Mozhaets-5 experimental piece produced at Polet design bureau on the order of Mozhaysky Military Space Academy (St. Petersburg). It was launched to test the functioning of the optical laser line of communication and research the influence of the space radiation on microelectronics. Besides that, students of the academy will acquire practical skills at operating a satellite (there are now Mozhaets-3 and Mozhaets-4 satellites on the orbit). Two more satellites, 150-kg China-DMC (China) and 115-kg TopSat (UK), were produced by the British SSTL and are designed for the distant reconnaissance of the earth. The fourth satellite, 61-kg SSETI Express of the European Space Agency
, was developed within the framework of the European education project and is meant to teach students from ten universities in Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. When the satellite was placed into orbit three 1-kg subminiature satellites (German UWE-1, Norwegian Ncube-2 and Japanese Xi-V) got detached from it.
All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 28, 2005