Iranian satellite reached Washington, D.C.



On February 29, a Russian Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with a Fregat upper stage put into orbit Meteor-M meteo-satellite №2–4, along with 17 other Russian small satellites plus one from Iran. «Together with Meteor-M spacecraft №2–4 in the interests of the Iranian Space Agency, the Iranian small spacecraft Pars-1 was put into orbit, which is a demonstration satellite designed to practice Earth remote sensing technologies», Roscosmos said in a statement.

In addition, on the eve of the launch, Iranian Minister of Information and Communication Technologies Issa Zarepour said that the Russian rocket will put into orbit the Pars-1 satellite in the interests of scientists of the Islamic Republic.

In general, an ordinary event — a commercial launch of a small satellite, which NASA and all sorts of American private companies carry out quite often — caused a strong reaction in Washington.

Matthew Miller, head of the State Department’s press office, said with irritation: «We have seen the news of the satellite launch, and this is yet another indication of increased military cooperation between Iran and Russia. As we have publicly warned many times, this partnership is harmful to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbors, and the entire global community». Here it is, a classic example of the American way of thinking. «The Emperor» doesn’t tell us to cooperate. Never mind that the launch of a research satellite has nothing to do with military cooperation. No one can do business with Iran, that’s what Washington has decided. And never mind the sovereign right of states to have bilateral relations, even if only in the defense sphere.

No evidence of mythical military cooperation is given. But the State Department, taking the opportunity, once again threatens: «If Iran sells ballistic missiles to Russia, the international community’s response will be quick and harsh». In the style of «we are the emperor of the universe», the US hints that it will force its vassals to adopt some more sanctions and restrictions. In the name of «freedom and democracy».

To give these threats some basis, Western intelligence agencies have previously leaked to the press that Iranian authorities were allegedly planning to transfer a batch of unmanned aerial vehicles and short-range ballistic missiles to Russia. According to this information, the Russian army was to receive Zolfaghar and Fateh-110 missiles capable of hitting targets at a range of 700 and 300 kilometers. There is, of course, no evidence that the deliveries have begun. But even if there were? Why do not two sovereign states have the right to independently determine what to trade with and in what areas to cooperate?

And in fact, Russia and Iran have not even begun to really cooperate. Despite the benefits and great potential of such cooperation, for decades all our eyes have been directed mainly to the West.

Here is how Dmitry Medoev, an Iran specialist, former Foreign Minister of South Ossetia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, commented on the situation to GEOFOR. «After the collapse of the USSR, Iran did not occupy a prominent place in Russia’s trade and economic priorities. According to the Tehran Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in 2021 bilateral trade turnover did not exceed $4 billion. 80 percent of it was agricultural products. Moreover, Russian exports amounted to about $3 billion. It was only in 2023 that Iran increased its supplies to Russia by about 30 percent. These were mainly industrial products: polystyrene, pumps, auto components, machine tools for metalworking, etc. As a result, Iranian supplies surpassed Russian imports of industrial goods to Iran for the first time».

Nominally, Russia is among Iran’s ten largest foreign trade partners, but its share fluctuates at the level of 1–3%, which is much lower than that of China, the UAE, and Iraq. Russia has considerable potential for developing trade and economic relations with Iran, especially given the sanctions and the withdrawal of Western companies from the Russian market.

But it is not a fact that Iranian business will rush headlong into the Russian market. At present, Russia and its counterparties are subject to such extensive sanctions that even Iranian companies will weigh the risks. While there is interest in expanding relations with Russia, Iranian business circles are considering four options for cooperation: the model of India, which maintains a balance between the West and Russia; the model of Turkey, which mediates the Russian-Ukrainian conflict for economic benefits; the model of China, which supports Russia economically but does not help in military actions; and the model of Germany, with its «cautious» interaction with Russia.

At the same time, Tehran is more inclined to avoid harming its interests and balancing between Russia and the West.

«It is unlikely that Iran will take such a risk, which arises in connection with the supply of certain weapons systems to Russia», — Dmitry Medoev believes. — Tehran would like to emphasize those aspects of cooperation that would not carry sanctions risks and would attract Russia to major projects. In particular, it is the formation of the North-South transport corridor and, above all, the construction of the missing link — the railroad between the Iranian cities of Rasht and Astara. In 2023, it became known that Russia allocated a $1.3 billion loan to Iran for the joint construction of this highway. It is also a matter of creating consortiums with Russian participation for exporting food products to Russia, as well as production and transshipment of gas resources in the Caspian Sea. Tehran is also thinking of involving Indian companies in some of these projects.

In November 2022, a Russian trade delegation of more than 300 people visited Iran. According to Iranian media reports, the parties discussed a plan to increase the trade turnover between Russia and Iran to $40 billion, i.e. 10 times. But over what period of time and whether this is achievable in the short term is not quite clear. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia and Iran reached an agreement to sign a free trade zone accord with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in the near future. The parties also confirmed their intention to cooperate to create a North-South transportation corridor (with access to the Indian Ocean) and develop the port infrastructure of the Caspian Sea.

As for military-technical cooperation, there is obvious great interest in Russian arms from the Iranian side, not vice versa. Iran would not mind buying Russian missile boats, corvettes, hovercrafts, as well as Su-30 and MiG-29SMT fighters and Su-25 attack aircraft. In addition, Tehran needed to modernize three Russian-made submarines that are in service with the country’s Navy. Moreover, the possibility of purchasing new Project 636 submarines from Russia was considered. But all these are more declarations of intent.

And the State Department does not seem to be worried about arms deliveries to Iran after the UN embargo is lifted. Although, by and large, it is none of its business. It is high time for the countries of the region to give a damn about all these threats from another continent and start full-fledged cooperation in the interests of each other.