President Biden’s retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria on the weekend were targeted to avoid hitting Iranians to avoid escalation. Imagine the restraints on the U.S. when Iran has nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them against U.S. allies or the U.S. homeland.

That’s the specter raised by Iran’s launch on Jan. 20 of a satellite 450 miles into space. There’s significant overlap between the technologies used for space-launch vehicles and longer-range ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 2019 then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described these technologies as “virtually identical and interchangeable.”

In its recent launch Iran for the first time used an all-solid propellant launcher, incorporating a state-of-the-art technology commonly used for long-range missiles, according to Fabian Hinz of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Weight is a factor for missile range and payload, so it’s notable that the satellite launch featured a lightweight carbon motor casing. Another dual-use feature was flexible nozzles for thrust control, which can also be used to steer long-range missiles.

Iran says it won’t develop missiles with a range of more than 2,000 kilometers, but that promise can’t be trusted. Even 2,000 kilometers is long enough to strike Israel and U.S. military bases in the Middle East.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) presided over the launch. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the founder of Iran’s ballistic missile project, was working on its pursuit of space-launch vehicles and solid propellants before his death in 2011, according to Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The IRGC officer’s brother told a state-owned newspaper that Tehrani Moghaddam had been working on a project “related to an intercontinental ballistic missile” in a story that was later edited to omit that quote, according to the BBC.

Unlike satellites, longer-range missiles must be capable of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere without burning up. It’s unclear how close Iran is to gaining this capability, but that’s a technology Russia has mastered and could share with Tehran. NBC News reported in August that a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency spokesman referred to “indications that Russian technicians are helping Iran with its space-launched vehicle program, which could aid Tehran’s goal of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

All of this underscores that Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain its main threat to world order, and Tehran is on the path to getting there.

Source » msn