Russia to launch spy satellite for Iran, but use it first over Ukraine


According to Western security officials are familiar with the matter.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos announced the August 9 launch date of the satellite, named “Khayyam” after a 12th-century Persian mathematician, to fulfill a negotiated agreement with Iran for almost 4 years. Russia has agreed to build and launch the Kanopus-V system, which includes a high-resolution camera that will give Tehran unprecedented capabilities, including near-constant surveillance of sensitive facilities in Israel. and the Persian Gulf.

But Iran may not be in control of the satellite immediately. Russia, which tried to achieve its military goals during its five-month offensive on Ukraine, has told Tehran it plans to use the satellite for several months, or longer, to increase surveillance. military targets in that conflict, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing sensitivity around intelligence gathering.

The Russian Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

The Biden administration has been closely monitoring Iran’s satellite efforts, which are progressing in tandem with Iran’s development of a more capable missile fleet. Administration officials declined to comment on the pending Russian launch or on Moscow’s reported intentions to use the satellite as part of ongoing battlefield surveillance in Ukraine.

Iran nuclear talks continue in last-ditch effort to secure deal

The developments come as talks continue in the Austrian capital in what some officials describe as a last-ditch effort to Save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Biden administration is pressing Iran to return to compliance with the deal that Tehran essentially abandoned after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018.

The pending launch is the latest sign of an increase in military and political cooperation between Moscow and Tehran. Its announcement came two weeks later Russian President Putin’s visit to Tehran for meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who later praised the government’s “long cooperation” with Moscow.

Last month, US officials revealed that Iran had offered to supply surveillance drones arrive in Russia to help with its war in Ukraine. Moscow faces economic strain because of international sanctions and boycotts over sensitive military technology.

Iran plans to send military drones to Russia

The Khayyam satellite will be launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan. A Roscosmos statement confirmed that Tuesday’s launch will put “remote sensing equipment into orbit at the request of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

washington articles last year’s report Russia’s deal, negotiated in secret with officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to build and launch a remote sensing satellite that would give Iran broad surveillance capabilities for military purposes and civil. Western security officials say the spacecraft’s camera has a resolution of 1.2 meters. That’s a far cry from the quality achieved by American spy satellites or high-end commercial satellite imagery providers, but a significant improvement over Iran’s current capabilities. .

The most potential benefit, officials said, would be Iran’s ability to “task” the new satellite to conduct continuous surveillance of sites of its choice, including military installations in Israel, refineries and other critical infrastructure in the neighboring Gulf States.

Iran’s own efforts to launch military spy satellites into orbit have been met with disappointment; while it successfully launched a military satellite called Noor-1 into space in 2020, the spacecraft experienced technical problems and was mocked by The Pentagon as a “messy webcam.” In June, Iran announced the second successful launch of a new rocket, called Zuljanah, which it said was designed to put future satellites into orbit.

The prospect of an improved Iranian satellite has exacerbated the anxiety of Iran’s neighbors and adversaries, as well as US military and intelligence officials. In addition to conducting military surveillance for its own purposes, experts say Iran may be sharing images with pro-Iranian militia groups in the region. These include Houthi rebels fighting Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen, Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon, and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. Pro-Iranian forces have been implicated in repeated missile and drone attacks on Iraqi military bases that house American troops and military trainers.

In the hands of fighters, Iranian drones emerge as a new wild card in the Middle East

Iran has long been under constant surveillance by high-resolution satellite cameras from the US and Israel.

Richard Goldberg, a leading Iran analyst on the Trump administration’s National Security Council and currently a senior adviser to the Defense Fund of Democracies, a Washington think tank. “As Iran perfects its missile arsenal – from short-, medium- to long-range missiles, along with growing UAV capabilities across the Middle East – being able to synchronize those capabilities with Surveillance and satellite capabilities will only increase the lethality of the Iranian threat.”

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