Report: Russia to Launch Satellite on Behalf of Iran With Unprecedented Spying Capabilities

Moscow will launch the Kanopus-V satellite system, a Russian-made satellite allowing for near-uninterrupted monitoring of large swaths of land, including sites in Israel and the Gulf, Western officials told the Washington Post

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi prior to their talks in Tehran, Iran in July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi prior to their talks in Tehran, Iran in July.Credit: Sergei Savostyanov /AP

Russia is preparing to launch a new satellite on Iran's behalf which will allow Tehran to spy on targets across the Middle East, including uninterrupted monitoring of sites in Israel and across the Persian Gulf, Western security officials told The Washington Post on Thursday.

The Russian state space agency Roscosmos announced it would launch the Khayyam satellite next Tuesday. But as part of the agreement negotiated between Tehran and Moscow over the course of four years, the Kremlin plans to use the satellite for several months in Ukraine as part of its ongoing invasion there, two officials told the Post.

As part of the deal, Russia built and will launch the Kanopus-V satellite system, a Russian Earth observation satellite armed with a high-resolution camera and infrared detection capabilities that allow for close monitoring of large swaths of land.

The launch comes as talks in Vienna to salvage the Iran nuclear accord continue to stall, with the West pushing Iran to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to resume its monitoring of the country's nuclear program while Tehran continues to expand its enrichment of near-weapons-grade uranium.

Moscow and Tehran's ties have largely strengthened in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In July, the U.S. said it believes Russia is turning to Iran to provide it with “hundreds” of unmanned aerial vehicles, including weapons-capable drones, for use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, emboldened by high oil prices since the Ukraine war and losing Chinese clients – a key source of income for Tehran since U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018 – Iran is betting that with Russia's support it could pressure Washington to offer concessions for the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal.

Also in July, Russian President Valdimir Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, the Kremlin leader's first trip outside the former Soviet Union since Russia invaded Ukraine. The trip was meant to strengthen ties between the two countries, both of which have been chafing under Western economic sanctions, and which recently became aware of a looming threat in the form of a U.S.-backed Gulf Arab-Israeli bloc.

"Considering the evolving geopolitical ties after the Ukraine war, the [clerical] establishment tries to secure Moscow's support in Tehran's confrontation with Washington and its regional allies," said a senior Iranian official.

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