Iran to acquire Russian high-resolution recon satellite
Russia is set to give Iran a satellite that could spy on Tehran's potential military targets.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/GettyImages / El Salvador/Wikimedia
Al-Monitor Staff
TOPICS COVERED
Defense/Security cooperation
Iran-US tensions
Russian influence
Technology
June 11, 2021
Russia has plans to provide Iran with a civilian-grade satellite system that would significantly improve the Iranian military’s ability to surveil potential targets around the world.
The Kanopus-V satellite will include a camera capable of a resolution of 1.2 meters, which could allow Iran to closely monitor military bases and oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Israel, at a time when Iranian proxies continue to target or threaten such sites. The resolution is much better than what Iran currently has, but lower than that of US satellites.
The proposed transfer was reported by The Washington Post, citing a current US official and a former US official as well as a Middle Eastern government official briefed on the subject.
Iran’s new satellite could be launched from Russia, possibly within a few months, according to the Post. Iran last year put a military satellite into orbit successfully for the first time.
US officials said the satellite launched last year raised concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities, but US Space Force commander Gen. John Raymond dismissed it in a tweet as “a tumbling webcam in space; unlikely providing intel.”
Russia and Iran have expressed interest in partnering on space programs for years. That the expiration of the UN’s arms embargo on Iran last year could bring the two closer in defense ties has also raised some concern among US officials, though the Kanopus-V would not likely violate the embargo.
It is not yet clear which Russian firms will help Iran launch, operate and maintain the satellite. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials have made multiple trips to Russia since 2018 over the agreement, the Post reported.
Russian specialists have also traveled to Iran in recent months, likely to assist Iranian personnel who would operate the satellite from a new facility near the city of Karaj in Iran’s south, the paper said.
The report comes as the United States is engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran over a mutual return to the 2015 agreement that placed strict limits on Tehran’s nuclear program. President Joe Biden is also scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week.
Top Israeli officials have warned against a return to the Iran nuclear deal, saying it could embolden Iran, which has supplied weapons technology to proxy militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Those militias have launched hundreds of attacks against Saudi Arabia as part of Yemen’s civil war and against Western coalition forces stationed in Iraq.
The Kanopus-V could give Iran detailed imagery of sites that some officials worry could be passed on to proxy fighters.
The Biden administration is leading a diplomatic push to end Yemen’s civil war and is in intermittent talks with Baghdad about removing at least some of the last remaining US troops from Iraq country, according to Iraq’s government.  
MORE FROM AL-MONITOR STAFF
Search underway after migrant boat sinks off Turkish coast
Al-Monitor Staff | Turkey | Jul 23, 2021
Iran's supreme leader receives second vaccine dose
Al-Monitor Staff | Jul 23, 2021
Watchdog: Internet disrupted in Iran amid water protests
Al-Monitor Staff | Iran | Jul 23, 2021
POPULAR ARTICLES
4,000-year-old city discovered in Iraq
Adnan Abu Zeed | Iraq | Jul 9, 2021
Saudi Arabia’s race for Gulf economic leadership takes to the sky
Sebastian Castelier | Gulf | Jul 13, 2021
Ancient fossilized fish found in Egypt that survived in hot waters
Alaa Omran | Culture | Jun 16, 2021
Will Turkey use Syrian mercenaries in Kabul?
Fehim Tastekin | Turkey | Jul 12, 2021
Has Israel’s army become too small?
Ben Caspit | Israel | Jul 13, 2021
RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
Kremlin's vaccine diplomacy finds trouble in Middle East 
Anton Mardasov | Russia | Jul 16, 2021
Confrontation between US, pro-Iranian groups in Syria and Iraq poses challenges for Russia
Kirill Semenov | Syria | Jul 12, 2021
Russia looks for way back into Yemen
Kirill Semenov | Russia | Jun 11, 2021
US cranks up diplomacy with Russia to keep Syria’s last humanitarian aid corridor open
Amberin Zaman | Syria | Jun 7, 2021
RECENT PODCASTS
Ali Hashem on what to expect from Ebrahim Raisi and the rise of the Hezbollahis in Iran
Major General Noam Tibon: IDF needs more boots on the ground 
South Asia security expert Ayesha Siddiqa says Turkey is a natural fit for Afghanistan 
Ambassador Haim Koren: Bennett seeks to boost Israel’s ties with Jordan 
Israel’s Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai calls for renewing dialogue with American Jews 
NEWSLETTERS
Subscribe
© 2021 Al-Monitor, LLC. All rights reserved.