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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

US war drums and Iran peaceful communication satellite

Steinmeier Seeks U.S. Missile Defense Shift, Sueddeutsche Says

By Tony Czuczka

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to rethink U.S. missile-defense plans for Europe when they meet today in Washington, the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said.

“I now expect all sides to move toward resolving their differences on the disputed issue of the planned U.S. missile- defense umbrella in eastern Europe,” Steinmeier says in an op- ed piece the newspaper will publish tomorrow, Sueddeutsche said in an article on its Web site.

Steinmeier says he hopes President Barack Obama’s administration will pursue disarmament with Russia and Senate ratification of an international ban on nuclear testing “after a blockade for years” by former President George W. Bush, the newspaper said.

The governments of Poland and the Czech Republic agreed last year to host interceptor missiles and a tracking radar respectively as part of a protective shield against ballistic missiles. While the Bush administration said the system is aimed against threats such as Iran, Russia views the missile shield as a threat and has vehemently opposed it. Obama has said he supports deploying a missile-defense system once the technology has been proven to work.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Czuczka in Berlin at

Last Updated: February 3, 2009 02:46 EST

The Safir (ambassador) satellite-carrier rocket, which will carry Iran's Omid 2 (hope) satellite, is seen before launch at an undisclosed location in the Iran on Augest 16, 2008. Iran's Omid (Hope) satellite was sent into space on Monday evening carried by the Safir-2 space rocket, local news agencies reported.(Xinhua/AFP File Photo)

Iran: A Successful Satellite Launch?

February 3, 2009 | 1704 GMT

Iranian Safir Omid satellite launch vehicle

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 3 declared a nighttime indigenous satellite launch a success. The technology required to pull off such a launch is, by and large, also applicable to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though responses from foreign governments have been slow to come in, such a success — if genuine — will give Tehran new leverage with the United States and Europe.

Iran claims to have inserted a small telecommunications satellite into orbit during a nighttime launch broadcast on Iranian state television Feb. 3, amid the 10-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the country on television, calling the launch a success.

If the claims are true, the event would mark the first indigenously designed and built satellite Iran has put into orbit on its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite launch vehicle (SLV), which is also indigenously designed and built. This is a feat Iran apparently failed to accomplish last August (and something North Korea just barely failed to do in 1998 with its first Taepodong SLV). While this satellite insertion is a significant development in and of itself for the Iranian missile program, it has much more far-reaching implications for Iran’s relations with other powers.

Stratfor argued two years ago that such a launch was quite feasible based on Iranian cooperation with North Korea and Pakistan in missile development. The Safir Omid has the same distinctive narrow, elongated shape as North Korea’s Taepodong series. Indeed, North Korea is currently moving its own latest Taepodong SLV to a new launch facility on the country’s northwest coast for an anticipated launch later this spring.

Both the Taepodong and the Safir Omid rely heavily on the Russian Scud design, which is itself based heavily on the Nazi V-2 from World War II and has likely been pushed beyond its inherent design limitations in many ways. A demonstration of successful staging and satellite insertion, however, is also a demonstration of rudimentary intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. The distinction between an SLV and an ICBM is largely one of guidance and payload. (This is not to say, however, that an ICBM version of the Safir Omid would necessarily have anywhere near the range to reach the continental United States on a conventional ballistic trajectory, that it has any meaningful degree of accuracy, or that Iran is anywhere near having a nuclear device that could be mounted on it.)

For the United States, the launch certainly gives new impetus to the argument in favor of completing a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. While the new administration of President Barack Obama has thus far kept its position on these installations deliberately ambiguous, it will be the White House’s first major policy choice on BMD. And Iran might have just made it more difficult (though hardly impossible) to delay the building of these installations, much less to cancel them outright.


The Iranian launch also comes close on the heels of a Feb. 2 announcement by NATO that it would permit member states to make independent, bilateral arrangements with Tehran for the transit of supplies to NATO military forces in Afghanistan. The relationship between the West and Iran is complex, especially as most or all of Europe is likely within range of an Iranian ICBM version of the Safir Omid. The launch will not necessarily derail such transit talks, but Iran’s relationships with even the more amenable European powers still face significant hurdles. But as North Korea has so aptly demonstrated, such launches — in addition to serving as nationalistic fodder for domestic audiences — can have very real utility in international negotiations.

TEHRAN, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Iran has sent its first home-built satellite into orbit, Iran's English-language satellite news channel Press TV reported on Tuesday.

The Omid (Hope) lightweight telecommunications satellite was sent into space by the Iranian-produced satellite carrier Safir 2,the report said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an order for the launch and hailed the move as a new achievement written in history.

"Dear people of Iran, your children have sent Iran's first domestic satellite into orbit... May this be a step toward... justice and peace," Ahmadinejad said.

"Iran's official presence in space has been added to the pages of history," he added.

Equipped with two frequency bands and eight antennae, Omid will transmit information to and from earth while orbiting the planet 15 times an hour, Press TV said.

The satellite is also equipped with remote sensing, satellite telemetry and geographic information system technology, as well as remote and ground station data processing.

After orbiting for one to three months, Omid will return to earth with data that will help Iranian experts send an operational satellite into space.

Officials at the Iranian Aerospace Organization have announced that they planned to launch another satellite into orbit this summer, according to Press TV.

In February 2007, Iran joined the international space-faring community when it successfully tested a rocket that went into space as part of its planned drive to launch five satellites into orbit by 2010.

Iran has been pursuing a space program for the past few years. In October 2005, Iran's first satellite -- the Russian-made Sina-1-- was put into orbit by a Russian rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

============================== FOX NEWS beats the war drums: ==============================

Iran's launch of its first satellite into space is a grave cause for concern to the U.S. as the Islamic Republic continues to work toward developing long-range missile capability, the Pentagon and White House said Tuesday.

Tuesday's launch of its first domestically made satellite "does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs said any effort to develop missile delivery capability, continue an illicit nuclear program, threaten Israel and sponsor terror is an "acute concern to this administration."

"It is certainly a reason for us to be concerned about Iran and its continued attempts to develop a ballistic missile program of increasingly long range," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters Tuesday.

"They (Iran) pose a real threat and it is a growing threat," he said.

Iran sent its first domestically made satellite into orbit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday -- claiming a significant step in an ambitious space program that has worried many international observers.

The satellite -- called Omid or "Hope" in Farsi -- was launched late Monday on the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The launch came one day before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with foreign ministers to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. She announced that senior U.S. diplomat William Burns will join officials from other major powers in Germany Wednesday to map out a strategy for thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Clinton said Tuesday that the U.S. must adopt policies that show an openness to dialogue and diplomacy, but said it is imperative that Iran act similarly.

"We are reaching out a hand, but the fist has to unclench," Clinton said at a news briefing with Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, repeating a line from Obama's inauguration speech.

Miliband called the Obama administration's willingness to talk to Iran a "new dimension" in international efforts to end Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Anything which adds to the international tension should be of concern," he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also expressed concern over the launch, saying that the reports -- if confirmed -- are an alarming development and an unsettling sign of Iran's progress in transport technology.

"That's why we must, with the new U.S. administration, intensify our efforts in the six-state group to dissuade Iran from the development of a militarily serviceable nuclear program," Steinmeier said.

Earlier Tuesday, state Department spokesman Robert Wood also called the development notable and cause for "grave" concern.

"Developing a space launch vehicle that could be -- could put a satellite into orbit could possibly lead to development of a ballistic missile system," he said during a State Department briefing Tuesday.

FOX News' Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

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