Russia intends to use the satellite that it will launch on Iran's behalf to assist its own war effort in Ukraine before relinquishing its control to Tehran.
Two Western security officials told The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity on Thursday that the satellite, dubbed “Khayyam” after a 12th-century Persian polymath, will greatly enhance Tehran’s ability to spy on military targets across the Middle East, including near-continuous monitoring of sensitive facilities in Israel and across the Persian Gulf.
Russia's Roscosmos space agency has announced August 9 as the launch date of the satellite by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan to fulfill a deal negotiated with Iran over nearly four years. Russia agreed to build and launch the Kanopus-V system but Iran may not be able to take control of the satellite right away as Moscow has told Tehran that it plans to use the satellite for several months, or longer, to enhance its surveillance of military targets for its invasion of Ukraine.
The pending launch is the latest indicator of increased military and political cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned twice in July that Moscow appears to be looking at buying Iranian drones and Russian officers even visited a drone base in Iran’s Kashan to review their options.
The developments come as talks have resumed in the Austrian capital Vienna in what some officials describe as a last-ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. The Biden administration is pressing Iran to return to compliance with the deal, which Tehran essentially abandoned after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018.