Is Iran’s space mission an international security threat?

Iranian state television has broadcast the successful launch of a rocket carrying animals into space.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called it a breakthrough for Iran which will help to break “the global domineering system” of Western powers but experts in the West see it as Iran’s latest move in a game of diplomatic chess.

Despite UN restrictions on the country’s missile programme, Iran’s President will dodge some criticism from other countries because of his surprise u-turn announcement that Iran will agree to ship its uranium abroad after international concerns about its nuclear programme. Mr. Ahmadinejad made the statement on the same day as the space launch.

Some people have said that launching the turtles, mouse and worms into space shows a positive advance in the country’s space development. This blog suggests we take a minute to appreciate the technological feat it represents! In the face of world opposition and sanctions, Iran has joined a very exclusive club: those countries that have managed to orbit a satellite.

Others are critical of Iran, warning of the danger Iran could pose:

A capsule in which some small animals can survive a journey into space is also a capsule in which a weaponized virus or a chemical weapon can be kept stable en-route to a distant target. Iran’s peaceful launch today thus demonstrates the capability to deliver a chemical or biological weapon – weapons the Iranian regime is presumed to possess – to the other side of the world.

But SPACEblog thinks we should recognise the achievement:

it’s good to see innovation coming out of any corner of Earth, as long as said innovation remains on a peaceful track… keep reaching for the stars.

So what’s this really about? Should Iran be praised for its efforts to break what it suggests is a Western monopoly on space travel? Or has some clever diplomacy masked a threatening escalation in Iranian armament?

42 Responses to “Is Iran’s space mission an international security threat?”

  1. February 4, 2010 at 17:55

    Erroneous policy concerning Iran. It is impossible to allow for Iran to have new dual-purpose technologies. Whether it is possible to satisfy desire of Iran to have atomic engineering. Certainly it is possible. Having connected to this question the transnational companies under supervision МАГАТЕ

  2. 2 JanB
    February 4, 2010 at 17:55

    “Should Iran be praised for its efforts to break what it suggests is a Western monopoly on space travel?”

    I don’t think China, Russia and India are part of the West, so there is no Western monopoly.

    Is the Iranian space program a threat? No, not on itself, but the missiles that are used could be a threat. I really don’t see how Iran could contribute scientifically in space and they could let the Russians launch communication satellites and the like for far less money, so the program must either be a prestige project or a cover for a missile program.

  3. 3 Kenneth Ingle
    February 4, 2010 at 18:09

    Not more than that of the USA or Russia.

  4. 4 Capt Simian & the Space Monkeys
    February 4, 2010 at 18:11

    Depends on the spin practised at the speed of sound and how the senoir reporter/editor filing the story is briefed, which I’m sure translates differently in Farsi.

  5. 5 Roberto
    February 4, 2010 at 18:15

    RE “” launching the turtles, mouse and worms into space “”

    ——— It’s only the Islamic world who may find this a great technological feat.

    They have to do something to show they’re not completely lost back in medieval ages and to stave off the coming revolution against their mullahs.

    A tremendously great culture being dumbed down and wasted for now it would appear.

  6. 6 username
    February 4, 2010 at 18:15

    I’m sure the worms, mouse and turtles appreciated losing their lives so that the Iranian leadership could boost its ego and gain further support from left wingers all over the globe

  7. 7 mat hendriks
    February 4, 2010 at 18:19

    Only when the we make one of it.

    Praise this man when he deserve it.
    If not say it to him.
    But do not play with him or his nation.

    Iran has the same rights as every other nation.
    Or am- I- wrong?
    Please tell me.

  8. 8 Ibrahim in UK
    February 4, 2010 at 18:21

    The status quo in the Middle East has for decades been one a dominance of Western interests realised through occupations and dictatorships at the expense of the rights and aspiration of the people. The majority of the Middle East populations hate this status quo and want it changed. However, the West are happy with this status quo, and any challenge to this will be seen as a threat.
    Iran is such a challenge, it is advancing technologically (despite the sanctions) and politically, providing backing to the alternative narrative of resistance to foreign domination and occupation (but unfortunately not socially). With the backing of China and Russia, it could be a significant pawn in a superpower game.
    I believe the best way to stop the Middle East from becoming a strong enemy allied to the East, is not further oppression, occupation and dictatorships, but an end to the foreign dominance, and encouraging independence and freedom which will resist interference from abroad.

    • 9 Bert
      February 4, 2010 at 20:10

      Hubrus, Ibrahim.

      Conservative Islamic states don’t give their people their own “rights and aspirations.” The uprisings in Iran are not against the West, let’s not forget, but against their government and its draconian policies.

      Having said that, let’s not forget that the govrernment was chosen by Iranian people on at least two elections recently. Maybe not within Tehran, but countrywide. So I’ll continue to suggest that by and large, the people get the government they deserve.

  9. 10 d in Indiana
    February 4, 2010 at 18:46

    Iran is an International security threat.

  10. 11 Jack
    February 4, 2010 at 18:52

    Oh golly, they want rockets, too? I just know they’re gonna use them to shoot down the multi-billion dollar “star wars” program that never materialized under Reagan. And then, I guess we should be afraid of Iran spreading the word of Allah to aliens, right?

    Or maybe they want to have some of their own satellite TV, cell phones, etc., instead of having to buy it from everyone else.

  11. 12 T
    February 4, 2010 at 19:15

    Keep in mind that Iran is a sovereign nation. This means that they have the right to defend themselves.

    Is this a threat? No. But, if a country is threatened, what’s wrong with defending themselves? No one would tolerate it if Iran told the U.K. or the States they weren’t allowed to have weapons. So why the double standard?

  12. 13 jens
    February 4, 2010 at 19:30

    it is cheaper to buy a satelite launch than it is to develop your own capabilities. The point you are missing is that these technologies are dual use. the same for microbiological research, which can be employed for the noble cause of curing diseases or for the not so noble cause of a biological attack. ditto with the nuclear program.

  13. 14 steve
    February 4, 2010 at 19:40

    I don’t know, maybe because the country is run by religious fundamentalist nutjobs?

    • February 5, 2010 at 16:21

      Steve, religious nutjobs as in the US, which has proved itself over several decades as the truly International Terrorist state with its atrocities in Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba (Bay of Pigs and numerous attempts on Castro’ life). The list is endless. Iran has no such track record. It is one of the oldest civilized nations in the world. It is because the US supports terrorist acts against those states that do not obey it, they have to be prepared to defend themselves. Iran does not pose any threat to anyone.

  14. 16 Bert
    February 4, 2010 at 20:02

    Of course, every country has a “right” to pursue their own scientific endeavors, and the rest of the world has a “right” to analyze whether these scientific endeavors represent an imminent threat to them.

    The situation here is obvious. Iran under their current leadership has made some fairly overt, provocative statements, even threats, against its neighbors. In light of this, and within the context of Iran being a conservative Islamic state, with all the implications that brings, I find it very disingenuous for anyone to pretend they can’t understand what the fuss is all about.

    If certain cultures would drag themselves out of the superstitious quagmire of the middle ages, they would certainly find more acceptance from the rest of the world. Guaranteed.

  15. 17 gary indiana
    February 4, 2010 at 20:34

    Certainly not, even though this is probably Mr. Ahmadinejad’s intent (or at least his hope). Iran is clearly an unpredictable entity; but its most likely victim is itself.

  16. 18 Michel Norman
    February 4, 2010 at 20:49

    Wow I always wanted to be an astronaut, and since this is where the first rockets will be landing I must be on the moon, the UK must be Mars and the US Jupiter – and they are even going to deliver peaceful nuclear energy in these rockets.

  17. 19 Michel Norman
    February 4, 2010 at 20:54

    In the 1930’s the world stood by watching another viciously anti-semitic regime that was planning a holocaust arm itself to the teath, and pressurized one small country to dismember itself to ensure peace in our time – 75 years later, has anything changed?

  18. 20 audre
    February 4, 2010 at 21:19

    Many countries have been or are run by religious fundamentalist nutjobs… Canada, the US under Bush, the UK under Blair, Israel? No one is stopping them from having weapons.

    Iran should be entitled to its own brand. Nutjobs rule the day!

  19. 21 T
    February 4, 2010 at 23:03

    What the real threat is the Obama Administration’s refusal to seriously talk to Iran.

    Obama spent two years constantly talking about “change.” And maybe some of you are sick of me mentioning this yet again :). But the point is this.

    If Obama is serious about improving relations with Iran, stop labeling them as “terrorists” one minute. Then trying to be nice to them and expect them to listen. I know some will say it’s all part of intl. politics. However, if you really want to create positive change, actually do something bold and different. And then maybe Obama might win another Nobel prize for an actual accomplishment (vs. being popular).

  20. 22 Craig
    February 5, 2010 at 01:31

    “I don’t know, maybe because the country is run by religious fundamentalist nutjobs?”

    In direct contrast to the USA? The US would never allow that of course. Being secular and all.

  21. 23 T
    February 5, 2010 at 02:43

    Answer a question with another one. If Iran wanted to send up an astronaut to the ISS (Intl. Space Station), should NASA allow it or not?

  22. 24 Jaime Saldarriaga
    February 5, 2010 at 03:29

    I believe UN should be able to make a reliable and thorough investigation on this matter.

  23. 25 Tan Boon Tee
    February 5, 2010 at 04:11

    There are always two sides to a coin — the good and the bad.

    It all depends on the person’s or nation’s intention.

  24. 26 M Ariely
    February 5, 2010 at 07:59

    The only solution for the democracies is :
    Replacing the theocratic Iranian regime.

    Iran theocratic regime doctrine is imposing Islamic Shia of:
    one religion, one government, Sharia low, no human rights worldwide that will follow the final apocalyptic war soon to come.
    Iran is preparing for this war.

    1:Prof Bernard Lewis the number one expert on Islam warned of the:
    Iranian leaders, in their speeches claim:
    “The apocalyptic time has come.“Ma’adi” the Muslim messiah is already here”
    The good can go enjoy the delights of paradise and the wicked,

    2: Recent words by Iran leader published by the media:
    2.1: Ahmadinejad said that the mission of Iran’s regime is to raise the message of the coming of the Mahdi worldwide.
    Reference: ILNA, Iran September 2009
    2:2: Addressingin eastern Azerbaijan province, Ahmadinejad said that liberal democracy is on its last legs.
    Reference: IRIB news, Iran November 2009

  25. February 5, 2010 at 08:02

    Iran has every right to showcase its achievements in Space Science ! If at all it poses any threat to any country it could only be to the world hegemon and its protectorate in the midst of the Arabs, viz., Israeli Zionism and not to any other.
    Two Cheers to Iranian Scientists!

  26. February 5, 2010 at 08:23

    Not Iran nor any country other than the US IMPERIALISM with its protege ,Israel which is a veritable security threat to the whole world! Take the cases of Nuclear Disarmament or Climate Change it is that rogue country which defies the international opinion in every conclave! and yet it has the audacity to dub the defending nations as the rogue countries with scant regard for civility in the conduct of international relations

  27. February 5, 2010 at 10:25

    Why do we imagine that Iran is any different from any other country that has WMD or the potential to develop them? If they launch their weapons at us, we’ll launch ours and bang goes the world. Whatever we think of their leaders, they are not complete idiots – they know the potential consequences as well as we do. The very fact that more countries have these ultimate weapons has kept them from attacking each other. Nobody wants global devastation, so we have a sort of peace. Look at the Cold War. Both superpowers hated each other, but could do nothing about it, because they each possessed weapons that could utterly destroy the other, therefore nobody had an advantage. Now they trade with each other! India can’t go to war with Pakistan for the same reason. It might be peace through gritted teeth, but at least it is peace. The logical extension of this is if every country had ultimate weapons, nobody could ever go to war!

    • 30 patti in cape coral
      February 5, 2010 at 16:16

      I have to agree with you, Iain, you make sense. I think it would be preferable if nobody had WMDs, but it’s too late for that.

    • 31 John LaGrua/New York
      February 5, 2010 at 19:06

      Unfortunately ,someone might take the gamble or be insane enough to dream of a quick win..Banning of nuclear weapons was a real posbility with Reagan and Gorbachov but Pearle and Wolfewitz advisors to Reagan talked him out of it.If Russia and the US banned nukes every other nation would have been pressured to do so. Were they as ardent Isreali supporters more concerned with Isreal than the creating a world free from nuclear disaster.MAD is a doctrine which only works if everyone has too much to loose.

  28. 32 Ibrahim in UK
    February 5, 2010 at 11:57

    Iran had an elected secular government, which was quickly toppled by a US and UK coup in Operation Ajax, because Iran took control of it’s own oil, whereas before it was completely controlled by the UK. The West installed a dictator instead, who gave back oil control to the West.
    The West supported Saddam in the war against Iran and protected him from blame for using chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds. Note: Despite Iran having WMD, despite being at war and despite being attacked by WMD, Iran NEVER retaliated with WMD. Today the West wants everyone to believe that this same regime will use WMDs without provocation. If Iran wanted to “wipe Israel off the face of the map” they already have the weapons to do it.
    Finally, the Bush years, the US branded Iran as part of the axis of evil, invaded and occupied it’s neighbours, threatens to attack Iran (some republican candidates even support pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Iran) and bring about regime change.
    Given the West’s history and present in the Middle East, the so-called International security has already been plunged into disaster.

    • 33 Bert
      February 5, 2010 at 23:07

      Some of those arguments would be valid, were it not for the fact that we have all witnessed what suicidal maniacs, who think they have a special link to their Almighty, are capable of.

      And it’s not like the actions of such people are rare. They are a daily ocurrence.

      The balance of power among nuclear countries has depended on irrational weapons begetting scrupulously rational policies from the governments of these countries. It’s when irrational weapons fall in the hands of the irrational that the world has a right to worry.

      The best hope here is that most of the rhetoric from Iran is just that. A cultural tendency toward flowery language and hyperbole. I think there may be a lot of this going on.

  29. 34 eSCe
    February 5, 2010 at 17:54

    Believe me, the greatest threat to the world s’ security are self righteous people who think they way is a more superior . They are those who want to export revolution or regime change. Don’t these countries have their poor people to take care of. China maintained , ‘our way is not your way.’ learn from China and you have world peace.

  30. 35 John LaGrua/New York
    February 5, 2010 at 18:53

    A not so subtle message to Isreal that it’s cities are not safe from retaliation should the Isreali or US hawks prevail.There is too much wishful thinking that Iran is going to implode and withdraw from a prominent role in the region.Just Isreal basis its’ claims to Palestine on “facts on the ground” Iran is asserting its’ self as a force to be to be recognized as legitimate player in the game for influence in the Mid East..High tech has replaced the old gunboat diplomacy..Russia did it with a dog ,US sent men and in keeping with its’ more modest standing mice ,turtles and worms.The turtle may be the most symbolic ,the Iranian turtle catching up with the hares of its’ adversaries.Clever.,gets all the hawks nickers in a twist and pride at home.

  31. 36 James Grove
    February 5, 2010 at 21:03

    The US and the UK pursued at HUGE MASSIVE COST to its own people its program of atomic and nuclear activity all the way up to the late 80’s. The thatcher government spent billions on a new missile system billions on useless underground bunkers and government sites all of which were obsolete 2 yrs later. The country lay in recession and un-employment was high. Now i real cannot see Iran getting the place we are now within a short space of time, they may have the will but i just dont think they have the money.

    Ultimatley apart from launching your own satellites there is little reason for launching space missions unless you are testing the rockets that can potentially carry war heads, making them ICBM or MRBM’s now even with all the spin by the UK and US it is slightly worrying, after all its political stability as a nation is often put to the test by its own people.

  32. 37 Az
    February 6, 2010 at 03:35

    showcase its achievements is reasonalbe.
    but we all know that Having launched a rocket successfully is more than that
    at less we r dising it here

  33. 38 Maxine
    February 7, 2010 at 02:53

    Mahamoud Ahmadinejad has his finger on the button. Would you trust him not to take us all to Paradise with him? I don’t trust him – and I don’t want to see his paradise.

  34. February 7, 2010 at 09:10

    Here again the United States,France and Great Britain
    have found another pretext to spread groundless fears
    regarding Iran.I trust that Mahmoud Ahmedinijan has
    enough sense not to attack Israel or cause any other
    trouble in the Middile East.The West would do far
    better to talk with the Iranians instead of trying to
    confront them.France gets 82%of it’s electricity
    through it’s use of nuclear power and nobody says
    anything to them,for example,and this generates no

  35. 40 viola
    February 8, 2010 at 00:02

    Should Iran be praised? No.

    Does their push for nuclear power and the means to deliver it signify danger to others? Yes.

    Should the rest of the world be concerned? Yes.

    Should Iranians be afraid? Yes.

    Is Iran using deception to hold the world at bay while it proceeds along the course of armament building? Yes.

  36. 41 Mammad
    February 8, 2010 at 08:52

    glad to see so many people interested in Iran’s fledgling space program. For those who like to degrade I have one thing to say: If it is such a worthless advance, then why all the hype?

  37. 42 mat hendriks
    February 8, 2010 at 21:37

    It is -not- an international security threat.

    It”- is- a threat for:
    The turtles, mouse and other animals in the rocket.
    They could be hurt or even died.

    But all space programmes in the world
    are complete madnes, when during the program, people and
    especially children are dying of hunger.

    We should stop all this space-programmes
    and make a programme” how to become a human world for us all.
    On earth.

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