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Rouhani Insists On Satellite Launch Despite Western Opposition

A Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite rocket at its launch site at an undisclosed location in Iran, July 27, 2017

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran is going to send two satellites into orbit in the coming days; despite Western warnings.

Speaking during a visit to Gonbad-e Kavous in Iran's northeastern Golestan Province on Monday January 14, Rouhani said that the satellites and the missiles that carry them into space are made in Iran.

Tehran's space adventure is taking place regardless of explicit and clear warnings by the United States and France.

Boasting about Iran's scientific progress and its leaders' defiance in the face of serious international warnings could be a way of portraying the Islamic Republic as a powerful state on its 40th anniversary in February.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani during his address in the city of Gonbad-e Kavous, Golestan province, January 14, 2019
Iranian President Hassan Rohani during his address in the city of Gonbad-e Kavous, Golestan province, January 14, 2019

Tehran may also be over-estimating Russia's support at international forums, if for example the launch becomes an issue at the UN Security Council. On the other hand, Iran's threats against Poland for holding an international conference on regional issues will not make EU's current position any more favorable towards Tehran.

Rouhani said: "We are not scared by the enemies' plots and will overcome the existing problems, " adding that "The U.S. and its allies cannot bring the Iranian nation to its knees."

Rouhani explained that Satellite Payam, which is an operational satellite, will monitor the climate and the situation of agriculture, water and forests from 600 kilometers above the Earth.

Previously, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned Iran to stop the plan to launch ballistic missiles into the space. A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry also called on Iran to abort the plan to launch "nuclear-capable missiles." Subsequently Robert Paladino, a spokesperson for the State Department praised the French for their "powerful statement."

Iranian foreign Ministry's spokesman Bahram Qassemi ruled out the French statement as "a repetition of false claims by those who oppose the nuclear deal with Iran."

Pompeo had said in December that launching the ballistic missiles that carry the satellites into the space would be in contravention of several UN Security Council resolutions including resolution number 2231.

Pompeo reminded Iran of the catastrophic consequences of violating resolution 2231 in December, after Iran tested a medium range missile, which the U.S. believed undermined the resolution.

UN Security Council’s resolution 2231 calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran insists that its missiles do not violate UN resolution 2231.

Based on the resolution, if Iran violates it, all sanctions previously imposed on Iran that were lifted following the 2015 nuclear agreement will be re-imposed on Tehran immediately.

The two satellites Iran is going to launch, are Payam, a remote-sensing satellite, and Nahid 1, which is a communication satellite developed by the students of Amir Kabir University in Tehran. Iran's other satellite, Mesbah, was so outdated after a 14 year delay in its launch that Tehran finally made it obsolete.

In 2016, the IRGC accused the government of storing a ready-to-launch satellite in a warehouse fearing the U.S. reaction, calling the government's inaction "humiliating."

It seems Iranian officials are insisting on provoking the international community by ignoring warnings about its missile program and uranium enrichment.

A day before Rouhani's comment about the imminent launch of satellites, Tehran's Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran has access to new equipment that are ready for 20 enrichment.

In another development, while Iran has angrily reacted to the news of an international conference in Warsaw to discuss Middle East and Iran, Warsaw has declared that "The international community is entitled to discuss various regional and global issues."

United Nations Security Council members vote on the Iran resolution at the UN headquarters in New York, July 20, 2015
United Nations Security Council members vote on the Iran resolution at the UN headquarters in New York, July 20, 2015

The Iranian Foreign Ministry had summoned Poland's ambassador in Tehran on Saturday and announced that "The Islamic Republic's reaction will be very serious and uncompromising," further threatening that "Warsaw should be held responsible for the consequences of hosting this conference."

Although Russia has let Iran down at the United Nations on several occasions during the past years, Iranian leaders seem to be calculating that Moscow will defend them against the international community by vetoing anti-Tehran resolutions.

During the nuclear negotiations and the international sanctions originally imposed on Iran, Moscow supported the Western position and even the UN anti-missile resolution.

Launching satellites now might be seen as a clear violation of the UN limitation on Iran’s missile technology; putting Russia in a difficult situation to defend Iran.

It is even much more likely that Europe will not tolerate Tehran's provocation as the French Foreign Ministry statement against Iran's missile program indicates. Iran's treatment of Poland, an EU member, will not make the situation any better.