Satellitte Launch Gives Tehran Some Security

Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Fradkov has signed a resolution allowing the Defense Ministry to launch Iran’s first two satellites – Mesbah and Sinah-1 – from the Plesetsk space center. Tehran officially announced a year ago that it would launch a satellite from its own territory, using its own resources. By persuading Iran not to do this, Moscow has given it some security against a US strike, Kommersant believes.

Should Iran decide to launch a satellite with its own carrier rocket, it could become the last straw for the US, which has virtually passed a verdict on Iran. President Bush has not only included Iran in the “axis of evil,” but also has launched a mechanism for punishing the Iranian regime.

However, such a situation would not suit Russia at all and not only because Russia has contracts worth billions of dollars with Iran. Russia would have to pay a high political price for any repetition of the Iraqi scenario by the Americans in Iran. Turning a blind eye to US actions would mean Moscow would have to accept a secondary role in global affairs, including in the regions that are strategically important for Russia. So, Russia has decided to work with Iran in a bid to tell the world that it was Moscow that persuaded Tehran to exercise restraint and so demonstrate that it presents no threat to anyone.

Moscow maintained contacts with “rogue states” in the past, and even justified them by saying that isolating the problem countries would be counterproductive and that they should be brought closer to the rest of the world. Russia’s contacts with problem countries are becoming a serious irritant in its relations with the West, while the “rogue states” make Moscow do all the work to protect them from UN sanctions.

Today, Iran has two options. The first is to come to terms with the US and convince it that no threat to peace is emanating from Tehran. The second is to repeat Iraq’s fate, but with the additional aspect of having attached Russia to itself in advance.