Amid soaring tensions with the US and on the same day that President Trump issued a provocative tweet ordering the Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats in the gulf, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) announced the successful launch of the country’s first military satellite on Wednesday.
Calling the surprise satellite launch (to the West that is) a “great success,” the IRGC statement hailed that “The first satellite of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been successfully launched into orbit by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” State media and the elite guard further called it “a great success and a new development in the field of space for Islamic Iran.”
However, unnamed American defense sources are pouring cold water on the claim, with Fox News citing that “U.S. intelligence has not detected any new satellites orbiting Earth, indicating Iran’s satellite launch likely a failure, officials say.”
U.S. intelligence has not detected any new satellites orbiting Earth, indicating Iran’s satellite launch likely a failure, officials say
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) April 22, 2020
The United States has long countered that the Islamic Republic’s satellite and space program is actually cover the further development of banned ballistic missiles. Western leaders as well as Israel have charged that Tehran desires to achieve nuclear warhead delivery capability through the program.
Undeterred by the fact that two recent satellite launch attempts in August of last year and in February of this year were spectacular failures (with a US or Israeli cyberattack allegedly involved in sabotaging the latter), Iran pushed forward with the launch which has apparently caught Washington by surprise.
This also explains in part Trump’s seemingly ‘random’ lashing out at Iran Wednesday morning: “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” the president tweeted early morning.
Iranian state TV covered the launch, further details of which are described by AFP as follows:
The satellite dubbed the Nour — meaning “light” in Persian — had been launched from the Markazi desert, a vast expanse in Iran’s central plateau.
The satellite “orbited the Earth at 425 kilometres (264 miles)” above sea level, said Sepahnews.
The rocket itself was named Qassed, meaning “messenger”, and contained a Koranic inscription that read: “Glory be to God who made this available to us, otherwise we could not have done it.”
The milestone unleashed national celebrations at a moment Iran’s leaders needed to show their population a positive achievement, given the multiple disasters of the past months.
— Aldin 🇧🇦 (@aldin_ww) April 22, 2020
This includes losing Gen. Qassem Soleimani to a US assassination by drone, and the subsequent Ukrainian airline disaster which the IRGC belatedly owned up to, but mostly the more recent coronavirus pandemic which has sent the economy plunging further amid the state of national emergency.
Meanwhile, the real question remains whether the satellite is actually now orbiting the earth, which early US intelligence statements appear to dispute.