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IRGC’s Noor-1 satellite: A new chapter in Iran’s defense power

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) successfully placed the Islamic Republic’s first ever military satellite in its designated orbit on Wednesday, using a rocket which is also the country’s first three-stage launch vehicle to successfully deliver its load.

The Noor-1, although Iran’s fifth homegrown satellite to successfully reach outer space, marks a new chapter in the country’s space program, which relies heavily on technologies that are designed and developed at home.

While little data has been made available about the Noor-1 and its features, its classification as a multi-purpose satellite with special uses in the defense sector suggests that the IRGC has reached such technological maturity that it can now confidently plan and carry out intelligence warfare and military reconnaissance missions from space while gathering data that helps keep the Iranian skies safe.

IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami wrote after the launch: “Today we watch the earth from the sky and this is proof that a global power is in the making.”

The satellite’s functions aside, the launch presents a far greater achievement for Iran’s defense industry by putting space, which is quickly becoming a new domain for military dominance, within reach.

The Qased (Courier) rocket, which carried the Noor-1 to its destination with a sophisticated three-stage design, also cleared one of the technological challenges that had hampered Iran’s recent attempts at reaching higher altitudes in the Low Earth Orbit.

According to experts, the ability to develop a solid-fuel engine that safely drives the third stage of the rocket to its desired altitude is testament to the great strides Iranian engineers have made under the harshest Western sanctions to date.

The Arabic website Ray al-Youm described the launch as evidence that Iran has defeated US sanctions in practice.

It also showed that despite designating the IRGC as a terrorist group and assassinating Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani, the US has failed to stop the IRGC’s rapid progress, the website added.

The significance of the launch became clearer when the chief commander of the Iranian Army, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, and Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, both hailed it as a historic milestone in expanding the country’s defense prowess.

Other top Iranian officials, including Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, have also congratulated and thanked the IRGC for its latest leap forward.

However, the successful launch, while widely expected and encouraged at home, took by surprise American and Israeli leaders who did not see it coming amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Iran hard.

US President Donald Trump, in a rather rushed statement, said the US was tracking the launch and claimed “we know more about them than the Iranians themselves.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the launch violated the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Ironically enough, the Trump
administration illegally abandoned the multi-lateral agreement in 2018.

Pompeo also echoed calls by Israeli leaders to hold Iran accountable for the launch, which they claimed was used as cover to expand Iran’s ballistic missile program.

There is even hearsay that the US is preparing to send the case to the Security Council for further action. 

But did the launch really breach international law?

The UNSC Resolution 2231 calls on Iran to avoid “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran has time and again made it clear that it has no plans to develop nuclear weapons or missiles capable of delivering such warheads, the main initiative behind the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, with the P5+1 nations—the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The resolution asks Iran to not undertake such test for a period of eight years, provided that other parties to the deal meet their commitments.

Iran has already cut back on most of its commitments under the landmark agreement following Washington’s exit and Europe’s failure to deliver its end of the bargain to protect trade.

The missile test ban, which experts say is non-binding and adhering to it is rather a gesture of good will by Iran, is expected to be terminated in fall.

All of this aside, there is still no evidence to back up America’s claims of Iran’s race being towards a nuclear weapon as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the other signatories to the JCPOA admit that Iran has fulfilled all of its promises.

So when it comes to Pompeo’s remarks about the violation of the UN resolution, perhaps Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has the best answer.

“This would not be the first time that a nation that has flagrantly breached the norms of international law and violated UNSC resolution 2231 is trying to deflect international condemnation by baselessly accusing Iran of noncompliance with the requirements of the Security Council,” she said Thursday.

“There are no, there have never been, and hopefully there will never be nuclear weapons in Iran. Iran, adhering to the resolution, does not develop, test or use ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, unlike the United States, which surprises the world every single day with news about plans to develop their nuclear missile capabilities,” she added.

With all this in mind, it is safe to assume that Washington will never succeed in forcing Iran to back away from expanding its defensive power, specially considering how it is surrounded by US-allied regimes that falsely view Iran as their main enemy and keep stockpiling weapons of all kinds in the futile quest of stopping its growing influence.

There is also the question of what exactly gives Washington the right to undermine Iran’s defense power while being in possession of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and spending billions more to upgrade it?

Given that the US is thousands of miles away from the Middle East region and has spent the past four decades implementing hostile policies against Iran, it seems that the answer to this and many other questions lay inside the US, where the Trump administration is under immense pressure for its disastrous handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

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