Table of Contents:


Map of Iran
(Source: Wikipedia)

Iran Puts First Spy Satellite in Orbit. Here’s Why Israel Should Worry: Yossi Melman, Haaretz, Apr. 27, 2020
Inside the Iranian IRGC’s Secretive Drone Unit:  Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 27, 2020
Iran’s Evolving Approach to Asymmetric Naval Warfare: Strategy and Capabilities in the Persian Gulf: Farzin Nadimi, Washington Institute, Apr. 2020
Iran Says It Wants Nuclear Submarines to Power Up Fleet After Confrontation With U.S. Navy:  Tom O’Connor, Newsweek, Apr. 17, 2020


Iran Puts First Spy Satellite in Orbit. Here’s Why Israel Should Worry
Yossi Melman
Haaretz, Apr. 27, 2020

After days of deliberations and evaluations, Israeli and western experts concluded that Iran’s most recent satellite launch, which took place last week, was successful. Iran managed to put four satellites into orbit in the past, but they were short-lived. It took 13 attempts, four of which only entered orbit for a short time, and nine of which failed completely, but this time it seems that the new satellite will last much longer – likely years – before disintegrating. Iran’s military spy satellite is now orbiting the earth at an approximate altitude of 450 kilometers.

“It is indeed an important accomplishment for the Iranian space program in general and its military in particular,” an Israeli security source, who asked not to be named, told Haaretz. “The most significant result is its symbolism, the fact that the launch didn’t fail.”

But there is a caveat. Most experts emphasize that still Iran has a long way to go before it could upgrade its long-range missiles to deliver nuclear warheads. Israeli military officials refused to comment on the launch, and only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned it, describing it as a threat to Israeli and international security.

The launch inaugurated the new Shahrood site in Semnan Province’s Markazi Desert, 400 kilometers east of Tehran. The Iranian satellite was launched by a three-stage missile, a more advanced version of the Safir first-generation rocket, which placed Iran’s first civilian satellite into orbit. The first stage uses a liquid propellant similar to the standard Iranian long-range Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of 1200-2000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching any point in Israel.

But it is the second stage that highlights the Islamic Republic’s technological progress – and military ambitions. It uses a solid propellant, the process of making which is more advanced than a liquid propellant. Its advantage lies in the fueling process. Like a car’s gas tank, it can take time to fill a rocket with liquid propellant. Within that time, enemy intelligence agencies could take notice. Solid propellant allows for quicker, more covert fueling.

There is also the notable fact that because the launcher was a mobile Shahab-3 adapted for a longer rocket, there was no launch umbilical tower – the tower of scaffolding frequently used to service a spacecraft on the launchpad – setting it apart from Iran’s past “civilian” launches. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Inside the Iranian IRGC’s Secretive Drone Unit
Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, Apr. 27, 2020

The head of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps drone unit gave a candid and long interview about Iran’s new success with drone technology over the weekend. Col. Akbar Karimloo spoke at length regarding new “stealth” drones and the array of vehicles now at his fingertips for waging war across the region. He said the drones had been tested in operations against Kurdish resistance groups and indicated they have become mature to be used across the Middle East.

Iran has pioneered drone use since the 1980s and in recent years has increasingly boasted about new drones that it is delivering to the air force, army, navy and IRGC. It has often copied existing drones that it captured from the US or that it was able to acquire. For instance it is thought that it copied its Ababil-3 design from a South African drone that is itself modelled on an Israeli drone with a distinctive twin-tail design. After Iran claimed to down a US Sentinel drone in 2011 it reverse engineered parts of it and called its version the Saeqeh. Its Shahed 129 is a copy of the well-known American predator drone. It also copied the smaller American Scan Eagle which it unveiled and called Yasir in 2013.

Since that time Iran took another step and built long distance attack drones that behave like cruise missiles. It exported the technology to the Houthi rebels in Yemen and used 25 drones and cruise missiles in an attack on Saudi Arabia in September last year. The IRGC now believes its drone arm has become not only mature but a real threat to all Iran’s enemies, including Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia and others. It has harassed US ships with drones in the Persian Gulf and it has delivered them to Hezbollah and Syria. In February 2018 Iran flew a drone into Israel from the T-4 base in Syria. Israel shot it down.

Now Karimloo is taking center stage in Tehran as Iran’s main drone man. He has spoken about a new “Fotros” stealth drone in recent discussions. The Fotros has been around for years and Iran believes that it can fly up to 2,000 kilometers, meaning it can strike Israel. Karimloo’s unit is also receiving new Mohajer-6 drones, the latest IRGC UAV. His interview comes a week after Iran’s army and air force said they got new drones. These included Ababil 3 and Karrar drones. The Ababils now claim to be fitted with anti-tank rockets.

The IRGC is boasting of its drone abilities to prove that it is Iran’s long arm in the region. It recently showed off wreckage of a US Global Hawk giant surveillance drone that it shot down last June. In the new 4,000 word interview with Tasnim news, Karimloo provided an exclusive look into Iran’s drone progress. Sitting in an office flanked by the IRGC flag and model drones, he spoke at length about his role. Karimloo is middle-aged, balding and wears a large ring on his right hand. He has a crystal-encassed model of the Mohajer-6 UAV on his desk. On the wall hangs a photo of him back in his younger years in the IRGC. Today he wears a press dark green uniform with the gold stars indicating his rank. .… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Iran’s Evolving Approach to Asymmetric Naval Warfare:
Strategy and Capabilities in the Persian Gulf
Farzin Nadimi
Washington Institute, Apr. 2020

The U.S. withdrawal in May 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal came with promises to reimpose an array of strict sanctions on the Islamic Republic. As part of the overall effort, Washington has pressured Tehran’s traditional oil customers to stop importing Iranian oil altogether. This “maximum pressure” move has successfully hampered Iran’s access to its main source of foreign currency and unrestricted barter. According to Iran’s Islamic Parliament Research Center, if national oil exports continue to fall, the regime might be forced to withhold all deposits to its national development fund in 2019; by law, up to 20 percent of oil, condensate, and gas revenue must be deposited into a special savings account.1 In February 2019, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, asserted that his country had a variety of options, other than closing the Strait of Hormuz, for stopping the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf in response to any stoppage of Iranian oil exports.

In the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, one Iranian means of aggressive messaging is through noisy naval maneuvering around passing Western warships. While Iran is unlikely to attempt another opportunistic seizure of Western vessels and sailors any time soon, as it did in 2007 and 2016 with British and U.S. sailors, respectively, likelier scenarios would be interference in Western surveillance drone activities or boosting its support for Yemeni Houthi disruption of freedom of navigation in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Moreover, the Saudi-Iran rivalry occasionally reaches uncharted territory: Bahrain continues to experience occasional periods of unrest and terrorist activity, relations between Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members remain in tatters, and the threat of Islamist terrorism with possible maritime dimensions persists despite the temporary receding of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Therefore, potential trigger points abound. All the while, the Islamic Republic continues to expand its regional influence using whatever means possible.

Besides these mostly unsettling trends, since 2008, when the author published his first Washington Institute study on Iran’s asymmetric naval warfare capabilities,3 the Islamic Republic has developed and fielded numerous new weapons systems and tactics, and the national and revolutionary navies have largely completed a comprehensive separation of their geographical areas of responsibility. This undertaking was necessary to establish a two-tier strategy meant not only to wage conventional and unconventional naval warfare closer to home, but also to maintain a naval presence well beyond the Gulf of Oman eastward into the open seas.

Iranian navies have in the meantime been the subject of numerous serious studies, in particular the 2009 and 2017 reports by the Office of Naval Intelligence, as well as several scholarly debates about Iranian capabilities to threaten regional assets vital to the West.4 The present edition is substantially updated from its predecessor and is furnished with useful reference material. It looks closely at the newest capabilities developed by the Islamic Republic in order to strengthen its deterrence and threaten the export of oil from the region if its deterrence fails. It also offers a fresh look at how the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—the primary asymmetric warfighter in the Islamic Republic—has developed a firm ideological platform and propaganda machine to support and supplement its technological and numerical buildup. … [To read the full report, click the following LINK – Ed.]

Iran Says It Wants Nuclear Submarines to Power Up Fleet After Confrontation With U.S. Navy
Tom O’Connor
Newsweek, Apr. 17, 2020

The head of Iran’s navy has called for the development of nuclear-powered submarines to better protect the country after a close encounter off its coast with the U.S. Navy.

Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said Thursday his forces were considering building a nuclear-powered submarine and that the Iranian Defense Ministry already had the capability to manufacture an underwater vessel larger than the cruise missile-armed, semi-heavy Fateh-class submarine unveiled last year. While Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has forbidden by Islamic law the production of nuclear bombs, Khanzadi said nuclear propulsion—a technology Iran had yet to demonstrate—would be necessary to defend and deter against potential adversaries like the United States.

“When there is no deterrence and no readiness for defense, peace will not be stabilized and that is why the armed forces of nations exist, to keep this peace stable,” Khanzadi said, according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.

“We need this equipment to stabilize this peace,” Khanzadi added, arguing it would be “for the benefit of our country and the international community.”

“There are many threats to our country,” he said. “Today, if we see the presence of American aircraft carriers in the region, we should know that they are nuclear. It allows them to stay at sea for six months, otherwise, they would have to return to the port for refueling after a short time and then continue to sail.”

The Iranian navy commander said building nuclear-powered submarines would have a second benefit: striking enemy bases from greater distances while remaining undetected.

The U.S. maintains tens of thousands of troops at bases in friendly Arab states along the Persian Gulf and regularly sends warships through the critical trade channel known as the Strait of Hormuz, located just miles off of Iran’s coast. The day before to Khanzadi’s remarks, a convoy of U.S. vessels encountered nearly a dozen fast-attack craft of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard in what the U.S. Fifth Fleet called an “unsafe and unprofessional interaction” in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. Navy said the armed Iranian speedboats “repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings” of the USS Lewis B. Puller expeditionary mobile base vessel as close as 50 yards and within 10 years of the Island-class USCGS patrol boat Maui. The Navy said the Iranian fleet ignored transmissions and warnings for about an hour before maneuvering away.

The Fifth Fleet argued that Iran’s “dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and violated the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) as well as international law and maritime customs.

Maritime tensions have for decades been a main feature of the long-running feud between Washington and Tehran that has escalated since President Donald Trump walked away from a multilateral nuclear deal two years ago. The 2015 arrangement lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic agreeing to curb nuclear production but the current administration felt it did not go far enough in halting Tehran’s support for foreign militias and missile production. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

For Further Reference:

Iran in the Corona Era: Implications for Israel’s National Security INSS, YouTube, Apr. 23, 2020 INSS held a ZOOM-based discussion on “Iran in the Corona Era: Implications for Israel’s National Security.” Participating in the discussion, which was broadcast live on the Institute’s website and Facebook, YouTube, and Twitterpages, were INSS and guest researchers, focusing on the difficult circumstances in the Islamic Republic in light of the pandemic, and the significance of the situation for Israel.

Iran’s Space Program Is Dangerous, Not Peaceful: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State, US Dept. of State, Press Statement, Apr. 25, 2020 — For years, Iran has claimed its space program is purely peaceful and civilian. The Trump Administration has never believed this fiction.

Iran’s Gamble Of Military Provocations for Concessions Is Not Working on Trump: Michael Pregent, Al Arabiya, Apr. 29, 2020 — Iran’s recent military provocations against the US and its western allies in the Gulf are straight out of Tehran’s old strategic playbook: provocations for concessions, and military adventurism designed to prop up the regime’s image at home while deliberately stopping short of an escalation that would lead to a devastating response from the US and its allies.

US to Seek Indefinite UN Arms Embargo on Iran, Officials Say: Times of Israel, Apr. 28, 2020 — US President Donald Trump says his administration is considering requiring travelers on certain incoming international flights to undergo temperature and virus checks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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