The Iranians are highly motivated, but that does not mean they are telling the truth, said Knesset Member Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel (Kadima), former head of Israel's Space Agency, after learning of Tehran's successful satellite launch Tuesday.
According to Iran's state television, the Islamic Republic launched its first home-made satellite into orbit on Tuesday. The Omid (Hope) satellite was sent into space as Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and is said to be a research and telecommunications satellite.
Ben-Israel suggested waiting a while before determining whether the reports were true: "The Iranian have reported of such successes in the past, and those turned out to be false. The timing – 30 years to the Islamic Revolution – just increases their motivation."
The satellite itself, he explained, is of an outdated class and is insignificant, intelligence-wise: "It really is quite primitive. It's not so much a satellite as a box that can collect data, something students at the Technion launched over 10 years ago. The thing to worry about is the launching capabilities. The use of a ballistic missile is the real threat."
Ben-Israel strongly believes that Iran's entire satellite program is nothing more than a disguise for its real goal – developing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
"It is a way of 'laundering' the real project, since testing such ballistic missiles is forbidden under several international conventions," he said.
Should the launch prove successful, it is the Iranians' newfound technological capability that Israel should be concerned about, he added.
"Prestige and Middle East standing aside, what it means is that the Iranians are getting the technological capability that may enable them, in the future, to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead."