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Iran Launches Indigenous Satellite

Iran joined the select group of spacefaring nations today when it announced the launch of a domestically-produced satellite, Omid ("Hope"), aboard its Safir-2 rocket and that it was "successfully set into orbit." This coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah, and on the heels of President Obama's announcement of a new era of detente with Iran. This is Iran's second satellite, after Russia launched the Sina-1 in 2005.

In the recent book, The Inheritance by David Sanger, Washington Post correspondent, which deals with the legacy inherited by President Obama from the Bush administration, he opens with the Iran issue and how it was handled by the Bush team. Coming soon after their intelligence failures with Iraq, they were far more circumspect and cautious than they perhaps would have been otherwise. Far from harbouring active regime-change fantasies, the book reveals that the administration sat on compelling evidence that Iran was likely pursuing an active weaponization program (pp 64-69, "The Laptop of Death") that was broken by the New York Times in 2005, and was even shared with the IAEA earlier that year. Even so, the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 showed that the design program for an atom bomb had been suspended ("Project 111") even as the civilian enrichment program continued. The author also reveals how skilfully Iran exploited American concerns post-Iraq and undermined the new Bush strategy to involve the other powers like Russia, China, and the Europeans by playing one against the other.

Iran's new launch comes after last August's launch of a similar rocket capable of carrying a satellite to orbit. The Omid is positioned as a data processing and television transmission satellite, although concerns of dual-use technology and the potential for the combination rocket to be converted to carry a warhead will likely raise fears around the world.

President Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying, "Iran's presence in space with the aim of expanding monotheism, peace and justice has now been officially recorded in history."

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