The new Iranian satellites pose a major challenge to Israel, the United States and their allies

A new Iranian satellite with surveillance capabilities poses a serious problem for Israel because of its ability to monitor the country’s sensitive sites and take high-resolution images of objects on the ground, experts have warned.

The Khayyam satellite, built and launched by Russia on behalf of Iran, was launched into orbit on Tuesday from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Hours later, Iranian media hailed the first telemetry from the spacecraft.

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Iran’s space agency said the satellite would be used for agriculture and water resources management, and the Russian embassy in Tehran said the spacecraft was designed for non-military purposes, the report said. The New York Times tuesday

But Western experts have no doubt that the satellite was designed for espionage purposes.

“This is a real revolution for Iran: for the first time, an Iranian owns and operates a high-resolution imaging satellite, which is much better than it has been so far,” said researcher Tal Inbar. Head of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a nonpartisan American organization, In The New York Times.

According to Inbar, the satellite’s imaging capabilities will present a significant challenge to Israel, which itself has long used the technology.

“Now Iran will be able to gather much more accurate intelligence for the military operations of its forces as well as the organizations it supports,” Inbar said, including real-time operations conducted by Iran. Iran or one of the militias it supports.

“This is a significant reduction in the technological gap between Iran, Israel and the United States,” Inbar added.

However, Iran’s space agency claims that Khayyam is designed to be used for domestic and peaceful purposes times The report said analysts affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boasted on social media that they could monitor US military bases and Israel.

While Iran has successfully launched small satellites weighing less than 50 kilograms in the past, Khayyam weighs about half a ton.

Continuous monitoring

Last week, two Western security officials The Washington Post That satellite had a resolution of 1.2 meters, meaning it could image objects of at least this size.

This is a significant improvement over Iran’s existing capabilities, but still far short of the capabilities of US spy satellites or providers of high-quality commercial satellite imagery, they added.

But arguably the biggest advantage for Iran is its ability to use satellites to continuously monitor specific sites, including military sites in Israel or other critical infrastructure in the Gulf states, the officials said on the cover. This is the subject.

According to experts, Iran will be able to share the information it gathers with terrorist groups it supports, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Richard Goldberg, a former Iran analyst on the Trump administration’s National Security Council and now a senior adviser at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said The Washington Post That the satellite poses a “clear and immediate” danger to the United States and its allies.

“As Iran expands its missile arsenal — short, medium and long-range missiles, along with its growing drone capabilities across the Middle East — being able to coordinate those capabilities with satellites and surveillance will only reinforce the lethal nature of the Iranian threat,” Goldberg said.

However, Khayyam’s first task may not be to spy on Israel, but on Ukraine.

Russian soldiers with a replica of the Russian national flag and victory banner after capturing the village of Bylohorivka in eastern Ukraine on July 3, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry via PA)

Western security officials reported this information post That Russia wanted to use the Iranian satellite Khayyam to facilitate its continued invasion of its neighbor’s territory, which was launched in February and met with fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Moscow plans to use the satellite for months to monitor military targets, two officials said.

The Russian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on their claims, the official said. post. US administration officials also would not comment on Russia’s possible use of satellites against Ukraine.

First signal received

Iran’s Fars news agency reported on Tuesday that the first data was received from the satellite.

According to Fars, the satellite is in orbit 500 kilometers above Earth and will send images four times a day.

Iran’s Communications and Information Technology Minister Isa Zarepour, who was in Kazakhstan to witness the launch, said the satellite launch by a Russian rocket was “the beginning of strategic cooperation between Iran and Russia in the space domain”.

Jarepur added that his country will continue to work on developing its own launch capabilities.

In June, Iran’s space agency said seven more satellites were planned, according to Fars.

While the launch is seen as an example of increased cooperation between Iran and Russia, even as Moscow finds itself isolated on the international scene due to its aggression in Ukraine, the satellite project deal was negotiated four years ago.

With Moscow’s international isolation growing under the weight of Western sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin is now looking to steer Russia toward the Middle East, Asia and Africa to find new customers for the country’s ailing space program.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran last month – one of his few foreign visits since the invasion began.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greet each other in the presence of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. (Credit: Leader of Iran’s Supreme Office via AP)

According to the US, Iran has offered to sell drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

An unnamed U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday that Washington suspects Russian forces have begun training in Iran to use combat drones made by the Islamic Republic.

Khayyam, named after the 11th-century Persian polymath Omar Khayyam, is not the first Iranian satellite Russia has sent into space. In 2005, Iran’s Sina-1 satellite was launched into space from the Russian cosmodrome in Plesetsk.

Iran’s first successful satellite launch was in 2009, but about 67% of orbit launches have failed in recent decades. Other space agencies around the world have a failure rate of 5%, according to The New York Times.

Western governments are concerned that satellite launch systems incorporate technologies that are interchangeable with those used for ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, which Iran has always been unwilling to build.

In April 2020, Iran successfully launched its first military satellite into orbit, earning a sharp rebuke from the United States.

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