Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Iran: New Space Partner!

Iran: New Space Partner!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
February 5, 2008

The 29th anniversary of the revolution in Iran was different this year. Along with numerous academic, sportive and artistic festivals, inaugurations, ground breakings and a host of other celebrations, the launching of a ballistic missile Kavoshgar I (Explorer) on February 4, 2008 was indeed most eye-catching. Apparently the missile was intended to carry and put a research satellite in the orbit. But as we shall see here, the political aspect of this test is much more controversial than its technological dimension, which is more or less a common occurrence elsewhere in the world.

While space, as the common heritage of mankind, is supposed to be reserved solely for peaceful uses, so far few states possessing the monopoly of highly sophisticated science and technology have been competing in this realm. Indeed, some nations are more talented and have more aptitude in the path of innovation and technical Know-how.

There is no doubt that Iranians are among gifted people. Yet, due to a number of historical impediments, they also have developed a number of weak points among which their superiority complex is more blatant. They want to be admired, well liked and accepted by others, individually and collectively. They usually have a tendency to over-estimate their capability but, are not prepared to commit themselves to discipline and hard work. Thus, they set their goals beyond the reach of their capacity and knowledge.

This characteristic has been reflected in the attitude of leaders and governments before and after the revolution. They have little tolerance vis-à-vis their political opponents and those who happen to think not like them. They easily label them as traitors, enemy collaborators and spies, who should be eliminated. No government likes to be criticized for poor performance even with good intentions. They expect all citizens, scholars, scientists, poets, writers, and intellectuals to devote their full talent and capacity at the service of the incumbent regime.

Being quite aware of this trait, most foreigners who have some benefit in dealing with Iranians often exaggerate in their compliments. Here we are reminded of President Jimmy Carter’s observation during his visit to Tehran just before the revolution in 1979. He naively alluded to the “island of stability” referring to the Shah’s excellent leadership right in the middle of social turmoil in Iran. This was indeed a slippery compliment which incited the Shah to tighten the repressive rope around opponents’ necks.

Nevertheless, Persians have proven that they possess scores of potentialities and can perform tremendous achievements, provided they have the necessary motto, forward-looking institutions and good leadership. The proof is the great number of successful and talented Iranians scientists, physicians and scholars now residing in Western countries.

Ever since the Islamic regime in Iran was dragged into an unwanted and unequal war with Iraq and was denied of war equipment and weaponry, it had no other choice than to rely on the patriotic zeal and ingenuity of its people in order to compensate its deficiencies. Besides from procuring its defense needs in world-wide black-markets, it has been investing hard in various fields of science and technology inside the country.

After the war, in order to show its capacity to govern a nation and lead it to the path of power and development, the acquired technical capacity during the war was a good basis to launching ambitious projects in defense industry and other fields. Indigenous innovations, from the construction or assembling of jet fighters, mini submarines and assault fast boats to long range missiles and other projects in the fields of genetics and cloning, nanotechnology and medicine got underway. The nuclear endeavor can be considered as one such investment which is now experiencing harsh pressure from outside for the purpose of abandoning the scheme.

It is worthwhile to remember that both the nuclear and satellite projects are among the many ambitious ventures that originally date back to the Shah regime which were abrogated as a revolutionary action by the religious regime.

The Islamic regime’s particular endeavor to revive and aggrandize most of these projects later bears good witness that Iran’s geo-strategic position in the crisis-ridden Middle East dictates certain requirements that whoever rules this country will follow the same path. This is of course a source of preoccupation for many who nourish anti-Persian sentiments inside and outside the region.

However, these whole undertakings at this particular juncture seem to be essentially used as justifying grounds for political legitimacy, proof of efficiency, good governance and national pride of a religious-revolutionary regime. Since, there are no clear indications that any of these grandiose projects, including the ballistic missile project, have gone through a rigorous cost-benefit analysis in order to evaluate their economic suitability in the context of national interests.

Whereas many developed countries use Russian or Chinese missile technology to put their sophisticated satellites in the orbit considering the much lower costs, there is no rational for Iran to rely on its own means to launch a few satellites. For many, the nuclear enrichment scheme falls in the same kinds of misjudgment and reasoning, which is a dire burden on Iran’s national resources.

Despite the fact that we don’t have yet the detailed specifications of the missile and the degree of the launch success, on the basis of what was shown in the media, the following hypotheses can be formulated with respect to recent ballistic missile test during the 29th anniversary of revolution:

*It intends to deter those who plan to isolate the Islamic government and threaten to overthrow the regime through preemptive strikes;
*It wants to show that economic sanctions and other limitations to pressure the regime to submit to the will of big powers, are condemned to failure;
*It implicitly threatens that the religious regime has the capability and intention to strike back if necessary hostile states in the region and elsewhere;
*It wants to dissuade members of the UN Security Council, and by the same token 5+1 States, to adopt a new resolution against Iran;
*It intends to demonstrate to the people, especially domestic opponents, that the regime is solid and resolute in its grip of power and does not allow anybody to challenge its legitimacy and existence; and finally
*It wants to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of a religious regime to run the sophisticated affairs of a country in 21st century, despite all the malicious schemes and conspiracies to show the contrary. /

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