“It’s not the best in the world, but it’s high-resolution and very good for military aims,” the Middle Eastern official told the Post. “This capability will allow Iran to maintain an accurate target bank, and to update that target bank within a few hours” every day.
The official also said that Iran would be able share the images with its terror proxies across the region, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Huthis in Yemen, and militias operating in Iraq.
The report comes as the US is involved in indirect talks with Tehran to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, and ahead of a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
In the past, the US and Israel have condemned Iran’s satellite efforts as defying a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. The Guard launching its own satellite calls that into question.
Russia has also defended Iran’s right to launch satellites.
Months after the launch of the Noor, Russia defended Iran’s right to launch a satellite, dismissing US claims that Tehran was defying the UN resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers by sending it into space.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said that “the ongoing attempts of the United States side to deprive Iran of the right to reap the benefits of peaceful space technology under false pretexts are a cause for serious concern and profound regret.”
Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent years. A fire at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in February 2019 killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
A rocket explosion last August drew even the attention of then-US president Donald Trump, who tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure. The successive failures raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran’s program, something Trump himself hinted at by tweeting at the time that the US “was not involved in the catastrophic accident.”
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
Experts told the Post that Iran previously managed to acquire high-resolution images by purchasing them from commercial satellite companies, however, their ability to obtain real-time data about potential military targets was limited.
“A domestic capability to take those pictures is something the military wants, because it’s valuable to them,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif told the Post. He added that acquiring Russian technology essentially would allow the Iranians a faster path to a capability they would have acquired on their own, given enough time.
“Is Iran’s military delighted? Yes, it is, and this is a real change,” Lewis said. “But it was going to happen sooner or later.”
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