Iran’s satellite launch may aggravate tensions with West

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 4 / Trend , D.Ibrahimova, T.Jafarov/

Iran's first satellite launch can exacerbate relations between Tehran and the West and create an opportunity for Iran to consolidate in the Middle East.

"An Iranian satellite launch is likely to boost national pride among Iranians. The satellite launch is likely to make both the United States and Europe very nervous," U.S. expert for military affairs Ted Carpenter told Trend .

On Feb. 2, Iran launched its first Umid satellite of own production on the board of the Safir-2 rocket. According to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the launch was a success and Iran "officially set its presence in space". Iran has become one of the 11 countries with space satellites.

U.S. and France expressed concern at the launch of the satellite. They believe the satellite construction technology is similar to ballistic missile construction technology. Western countries fear the launch may enable Iran to use these technologies to create nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear program is a stumbling block between Western countries and Tehran. Iran insists on the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program, while Western powers fear that Iran will build nuclear weapons.

The launch was timed to the thirtieth anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran and took place the day before the meeting of the UN Security Council, where permanent Security Council members - the U.S., UK, Russia, France, China and Germany (5+1) - will discuss development of Iran's nuclear program. UN Security Council earlier passed five resolutions against Iran, with three of them including economic sanctions.

Experts believe that Iran's satellite launch will cause concern among Western powers, and may worsen their relations with Tehran.

Europe will be especially concerned, since the region is more likely to be in missile range, said Carpenter.

Expert believes a satellite launch is the same problem as Iran's nuclear program. "It's the same "dual use" problem that exists with respect to Iran's nuclear program. Mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle can be used for peaceful power-generation purposes, but it can also be used to build nuclear weapons," said Vice-President for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato University in the U.S Ted Carpenter.

"Since there is so little trust between the West and Iran, any Iranian progress on either missile technology or nuclear technology creates additional tensions," Carpenter wrote Trend by e-mail.

Iran believes that Western powers should not be concerned, because the technical characteristics of the rocket prevent it from being used for military purposes.

Safir-2 will deliver the satellite to the orbit. It can fly only in the vertical direction, while ballistic rockets can fly in vertical and horizontal directions, Iranian arms expert, Organization for Protection of Iran's National Interests secretary general Saeed Yari told Trend in a telephone conversation.

According to Yari, Iran has coordinated its actions with the International Organization of Astronautics, the UN office dealing with space research, and launched the rocket in accordance with the requirements of these organizations.

By this launch Iran wants to show the world community that it is a strong power in the Middle East region, said British expert of Iranian origin Rza Tagizade.

Were Iran planning to use the satellite for some other purpose, it would not plan to bring it back to Earth after 4-6 weeks, Tagizade said.

However, it is quite possible that in future Iran will use the technology used during the launch of the satellite for military purposes, he said.

Separation of the satellite from the rocket, the technology of its placement in the orbit, perhaps, will give Iran an opportunity to transport missile warheads in the future. And Western countries fear about that, Glasgow University professor Rza Taghizade told Trend in a telephone conversation.

Observers believe that Western powers should establish more friendly relations with Iran in order to avoid using the technology for military purposes. According to Tagizade, the satellite launch will make Western countries unite and take a unified stance on further sanctions against Iran, or, conversely, co-operation with the country.

European countries still do not have a unified position on Iran. Despite the sanctions prohibiting European and U.S. companies to cooperate with Iran, Swiss Foreign Minister of Michele Calmy Ray visited Tehran in March 2008 to conclude a 25-year contract envisaging annual 5.5-billion-cubic-meter gas supplies from Iran to Switzerland.

Carpenter believes the best way for the West is to cooperate with Iran. "The proper response [from the West] is to try to develop a more normal relationship with Tehran, and the new Obama administration seems to be taking cautious steps in that direction," he said.

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