Iran is set to unveil a new "space observatory" that will serve as the centerpiece of its space program, and may launch "living creatures" into orbit "in the coming days," according to state-run media reports.
The new space base will act as headquarters from which the Iranian military can monitor Tehran’s future "expeditionary space missions," according to Iran’s defense minister, who was quoted Monday in Iran’s Fars News Agency.
Tehran will also unveil sometime between the end of January and early February "the latest home-made fighter jets," Fars reported.
The Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, who serves as the regime’s minister of defense and armed forces logistics, saying that the new space base will oversee Iranian space cargo missions.
"In upcoming days and Fajr (victory of the Revolution) anniversary ceremonies, an observatory called Imam Sadeq (AS) will be unveiled, with the mission of observing outer space cargo missions of the country," Vahidi said.
Asked if Iran will "dispatch" any "living creatures" into space, Vahidi reportedly said, "God willing, this will be done in the coming days." Several reports indicate Iran's goal is to send monkeys into space.
The news troubled Iran experts.
"Obama may want Iran to unclench its fist, but launching a monkey into space–demonstrating the technology Iran would need to build an intercontinental ballistic missile–is Ayatollah Khamenei's way of giving Obama the middle finger," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. "Let's just hope that the monkey comes back this time as something other than chelo kabob."
Vahidi also elaborated on the imminent unveiling of several more conventional weapons systems, according to Fars:
Iran has also taken wide strides in designing and manufacturing different types of light, semi-heavy and heavy weapons, military tools and equipment. Tehran launched an arms development program during the 1980-88 Iraqi imposed war on Iran to compensate for a US weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and fighter planes.
Meanwhile, Iran is considering suspending multilateral negotiations over its contested nuclear arms program, according to reports.
This could be a stalling tactic, according to experts.
Ahmad Hashemi, a former senior Iranian official, wrote in the Times of Israel last week that Iran "wants the bomb."
Hashemi went on to explain how the regime uses negotiations as a stalling tactic meant to buy it more time to perfect its nuclear work.
Additionally, Iranian officials met with Russia's minister of internal affairs Monday to discuss ways the two countries can increase bilateral ties and security cooperation.
Reports in Intelligence Online last week highlighted by the Open Source Center indicated Iran is stepping up its cooperation with China.
Tehran's Ministry of Intelligence and National Security is said to have signed an "agreement with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, (namely with the 12th bureau of the 3rd department) to develop listening posts," according to the January 16 report.
"Iran is involved in the Chinese space station project and technology cooperation is also underway on China's Tolou (Rising Sun) military satellite project, which will partly be used for telecoms interceptions," the report said.