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Iran launches 3 satellites into space despite West’s stern warning as tensions soar in Middle East


Tehran: Iran on Sunday claimed it successfully launched three satellites into space with a rocket that had multiple failures in the past, the latest for a program that the West says improves Tehran’s ballistic missiles. The launch comes as heightened tensions grip the wider Middle East over Israel’s continued war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, sparking fears of a regional conflict.

While Iran has not intervened militarily in the conflict, it has faced increased pressure within its theocracy for action after a deadly Islamic State suicide bombing earlier this month and as proxy groups like Yemen’s Houthi rebels conduct attacks linked to the war. Meanwhile, Western nations remain worried about Iran’s rapidly expanding nuclear program.

Footage released by Iranian state television showed a nighttime launch for the Simorgh rocket. An Associated Press analysis of the footage showed that it took place at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province. “The roar of the Simorgh (rocket) resonated in our country’s sky and infinite space,” said Abbas Rasooli, a state TV reporter, in the footage.

“Research satellite”

State TV named the launched satellites Mahda, Kayhan-2 and Hatef-1. It described the Mahda as a research satellite, while the Kayhan and the Hatef were nanosatellites focused on global positioning and communication respectively. Iran’s Information and Communications Technology Minister Isa Zarepour said the Mahda had already sent signals back to Earth.

There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, a satellite-carrying rocket. The Simorgh, or “Phoenix,” rocket failures have been part of a series of setbacks in recent years for Iran’s civilian space program, including fatal fires and a launchpad rocket explosion that drew the attention of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The footage showed the rocket launched Sunday bore the slogan “We Can” in Farsi, likely referring to the previous failures.

Middle East tensions

The Simorgh is a two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket the Iranians described as being designed to place satellites into a low Earth orbit. However, the U.S. intelligence community’s 2023 worldwide threat assessment said the development of satellite launch vehicles “shortens the timeline” for Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile because it uses similar technology. That report specifically cites the Simorgh as a possible dual-use rocket.

The United States has previously said Iran’s satellite launches defy a U.N. Security Council resolution and called on Tehran to undertake no activity involving ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. U.N. sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program expired last October. Under Iran’s relatively moderate former President Hassan Rouhani, the Islamic Republic slowed its space program for fear of raising tensions with the West. However, in the time since, the 2015 nuclear deal Rouhani shepherded with world powers has collapsed and tensions have been boiling for years with the U.S.

(With inputs from agency)

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