Feb 1, 2013 Comments Off Chuck Biscuits
Excerpted from The Times Of London: Iran enjoyed rare triumph on Monday – the successful launch of a monkey into space.
The regime proclaimed it as proof that Iranian scientists could match their Western counterparts, evidence that international sanctions were ineffectual, and a stepping stone to a manned flight. Western governments fretted that the rocket technology could be used to carry nuclear warheads.
The problem is that the flight may not actually have taken place.
Before the alleged launch the official Fars news agency and other state-controlled media published several photographs of the monkey – with a distinctive red mole above its right eye and a band of light fur around the side of its head wearing some sort of spacesuit and strapped into the seat that would carry it heavenwards.
Fast forward to the post-flight press conference, at which the regime introduced the heroic astro-monkey. The mole has gone, as has the band of light fur. It is manifestly a different creature.
There are two possible explanations for what might charitably be described as Iranian “monkey business”. One is that the original monkey died during the flight, and the regime was too embarrassed to admit it. It has never confessed to a failed attempt to launch a monkey into space in 2011.
The second explanation is that the launch never happened at all.
Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the US State Department, certainly expressed doubts when asked about it.
Michael Elleman, an Iranian missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told The Times today: “There’s been no independent confirmation from outside Iran that the launch did take place, and that the payload contained a monkey, and that the monkey survived.”
Iran had a history of inventing technological breakthroughs to exaggerate its abilities, he added.
The Iranians themselves have offered no incontrovertible evidence, and appeared curiously reticent about trumpeting an achievement timed to coincide with the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
The launch of the Pishgam – Farsi for Pioneer – rocket was not broadcast live on television. In the hours after the capsule allegedly returned to earth the regime published only a few still photographs of the rocket and the second monkey – but not the two together.
Later in the week it issued a couple of videos of a rocket being launched, of a capsule being retrieved, and of the second monkey strapped in a chair. But they appear unconvincing and could easily have been fabricated.
More broadly, the regime continues to insist that its elections are the freest in the world, that it holds no political prisoners, and that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.