As Iran’s economic realities come home to roost, the regime has decided to cut spending in areas that have been deemed non-critical. One of these is the space program, which according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency that the government space agency has canceled its project meant to launch a human in space.
The international community is breathing a slight sigh of relief at this news, as the technology needed to launch a rocket into outer space with a human being aboard is very similar to what is needed to launch and deliver a nuclear weapon via a ballistic missile. Iran’s missile program is still in progress, but this is due to increased spending on defense, at the cost of other initiatives.
The 2015 nuclear agreement allowed Iran to ease economic sanctions, but the benefits of the agreement have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian. Funds that were released as part of the agreement have been funneled into the various war efforts and military campaigns that Iran is waging across the region.
Hassan Rouhani is facing growing concerns over high unemployment and other economic problems in Iran. Space has become an ambition that doesn’t fit into Iran’s foreign policy plans and so it appears that it has been abandoned.
“If they’re going to sustain robust growth, they need to spend on productivity-enhancing investments and creating jobs,” said Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy that follows Iran. “Nice-to-have, prestige projects will be vulnerable. This space project seems to be a casualty.”
The Iranian people continue to deal with the realities of an economy that continues to lack the necessary investment to thrive. Growth is primarily limited to the oil and gas sectors, with all other areas dealing with little to no growth at all.
New U.S. sanctions and an economic deadlock have also intensified the conflicts between the various factions within the regime. This includes attacks by those loyal to Khamenei on Rouhani during the election. The two rules of thought on the economy seem to be focused on limiting economic investment by foreign entities or creating an isolated Iranian economy. Various Iranian MPs have called for Rouhani to attempt to have the rest of the sanctions lifted through diplomacy.
Yet, there is little to no mention of the regime’s human rights record. Instead, the focus continues to be on Iran’s military and political influence within the region. Taking away a space program will not reduce the reality that the regime’s focus is still on building its power base by controlling the region.