Early on Tuesday, 3 February 2009, Iran launched another satellite into space. The satellite is named Omid, meaning “hope” in Farsi. The launch has been proclaimed a success by the Iranian Space Agency, the Iranian government, and by numerous unnamed sources in various governments including France and the United Kingdom. According to Iranian media outlets, the satellite was launched “for the great celebration of the Iranian nation and the 30th anniversary of the victory of the revolution.”

So what’s the international reaction? According to Eric Chevallier, spokesmen for the Foreign Ministry of France, France is “worried” by this launch. Bill Rammel, Minister of Britain’s Foreign Office said that it has given Britain some “serious concerns.” Robert Wood of the U.S. State Department has said that the launch if of “grave concern” to the U.S.

So why is the international community so disturbed by a satellite. According to Major-General (Res.) Isaac Ben-Israel, former head of Israel’s Space Agency, Omid, itself, is “primitive,” and less of a satellite than a “box that can collect data, something students at the Technion launched over 10 years ago.” So, then, what’s all the fuss about? It’s not about what the Iranians launched, but rather how they launched it. According to Ben-Israel, one needs “specific and added energy when firing a satellite that weighs between 30 and 50 kilograms into space. If they succeeded, then the equivalent within the atmosphere is firing a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead that weighs one ton all the way to Western Europe.” In other words, a successful launch is essential proving to the world that Iran can effectively threaten Israel, Europe, and soon the United States.

Luckily for the free world, U.S. President Obama intends to talk Iranian President Ahmadinejad out of his country’s nuclear program, which should particularly be possible if Iran can effectively threaten U.S. interests, including Western Europe? Well, as the Political Science theorists posit, at least talk is cheap.

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  • “If they succeeded, then the equivalent within the atmosphere is firing a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead that weighs one ton all the way to Western Europe.”

    Cue all those Europeans who dismissed the Iranian threat when it was “only Israel” in the firing line suddenly starting to take the matter more seriously!

  • “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators.”
    Neville Chamberlain, former British Prime Minister, 1937 – 1940

    ladies and gentlemen, does it not seem as though history repeats itself?

  • It is interesting to note two things in this whole situation.

    One; Iran already now is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – a treaty which explicitly allows the development of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

    Two; for some reason Israel has opted to not sign the NPT, even though nowadays everyone knows that Israel possesses at least 150 nuclear bombs and essentially “came out of the closet” a long time ago with the help of Mr. Vanunu.

    Make of those data points what you will, but I shall present also a small side-note regarding Iran.

    The big fear that Western countries have is not Iran having nuclear weapons and ICBM delivery capability, the big fear is first and foremost a hyper-conservative theocracy with nuclear weapons and ICBM capability. As this theocracy bases its power grip over the population on a more or less mandatory-to-observe religious-cultural unity, and as outside influences (i.e. Western) are seen to erode this unity and thus the power of the theocratic elite, i.e. the clergy, such outside influences are strongly fought against and disapproved of in a most visible way to discourage further adoption and spread of the foreign influence. This forced disapproval can take extreme forms which will, as a side effect, cause the entire nation to be perceived as a backward lair of religious insanity.

    This perception, coupled with a research and development program which may or not target the development of nuclear weapons, is the source of fear felt by the Western nations.

    Personally, I think the theocracy knows that they are losing the fight and need something with which they can assert their uniqueness and their national sovereignty. Basically any major ways to lessen the influence of outside things will further cement the power of the clergy. The more self-sufficient a nation is, the less a nation needs an outside world; and the less outside influences, the more power the theocratic system will possess.

    What to do? For one thing, isolating Iran as an international pariah will simply play to the hands of the clergy. Accepting Iran, even on their terms, will be a better solution as that will mean Iran opening itself more, even if a little bit, and in time, bringing about more changes which will further accelerate the inevitable decline of the theocracy and also eventually, and organically, get rid of the theocratic ruling elite itself.

    My 0.05 euros.

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