The term tipping point describes a point at which a slow gradual change becomes irreversible and then proceeds with gathering pace. It is derived from the metaphor of a rigid solid object being tilted to a point where it begins to topple.
Couple of observations from the region…
Iran to launch 1st domestic satellite soon – Ahmadinejad
(16 August 2008, IRNA) Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added in his press interview in Istanbul Friday that Iran would in near future launch its first domestic satellite to the space. According to IRNA, President Ahmadinejad said addressing the audience, “I want to inform you of a first hand news today. The Americans sanctioned us 28 years ago, but that is not the whole story.”
“They also imposed a number of sets of embargoes, whose single purpose was the block the path of our progress. But thanks to all those sanctions, we are now a nuclear country, and will by grace of God very soon launch our first Iranian made satellite.”
The Iranian president reiterated, “This satellite, the rocket that would launch it, and the land station from which it would be launched are entirely made in Iran, by the talented Iranian scientists and technicians.” He pointed out that the Islamic Iran is today also among the top five world countries with advanced bio-technology expertise, the top in nano-technology field, and that the Iranians have achieved all such high objectives thanks to the US, and US backed sanctions, which our nation is decided to resist against.
Presumably a modified version of the Shahab-3 would be used to loft a nominal 35-40 lb object (ostensibly named Safir – Persian for “emissary’) into low orbit. Recall that America’s first satellite, Explorer, was about 53 lbs and was launched on the Jupiter-C, a derivative of the Redstone MRBM which itself was derived from the V-2. Ironically, the Shahab is a derivative of the SCUD which itself was derived from…the V-2. We would expect the launch to be fairly soon. Still, given Iran’s past history, there is a reason they call it rocket science.
And the Pentagon says “not so fast…”:
“The Iranians did not successfully launch the rocket,” a senior U.S. defense official told CNN Monday. The two-stage rocket could have been capable of launching a satellite into space, but the U.S. intelligence assessment shows that the second stage “was erratic and out of control,” said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the intelligence. The rocket “did not perform as designed,” (more)
Meanwhile, over in Israel:
Israel Takes Delivery of First F-16I Sufa (‘Storm’)
The long-awaited Israeli F-16I Sufa (‘Storm’) rolled off Lockheed Martin’s production line in Texas last week into the waiting hands of Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who was on scene to receive the new aircraft, the first of 102 ordered by Jerusalem in 1997.
The F-16I is a heavily modified two seat version of the U.S. Air Force’s F-16D Block 50/52-series fighter. In addition to the new and more powerful Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine, the F-16I boasts numerous internal and external advancements and modifications. For example, the Sufa has been customized with new avionic technologies, internally mounted FLIR (forward looking infrared) viewers, and cutting edge weapon system hardware provided by the Israeli defense company Lahav – a division of Israel Aircraft Industries.
Complementing the upgraded weapon systems is a dorsal compartment containing enhanced mission avionics and chaff and flare dispensers, enabling it to conduct either pilot training or combat missions. In addition, removable conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) have been added along the fuselage and above the wing roots, freeing-up underwing hard points for additional armaments. The F-16I has an unrefueled combat strike radius well in excess of 500 miles. The extended flight range allows Israeli forces to attack targets well within Iran and Libya without having to refuel.
Three squadrons of the new aircraft are expected to be operational from the Ramon airbase deep inside the Negev by 2008 with the first strike aircraft arriving next month.
And while the world has been focused on Beijing and South Ossetia/Georgia:
IRAN: The United States said yesterday that Iran had left the United Nations Security Council no choice but to increase sanctions on the Islamic republic for ignoring demands that it halt sensitive nuclear activities.
The US declaration came a day after an informal deadline lapsed for Iran to respond to an offer from the US, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia for talks on its disputed nuclear programme. “It is clear that the government of Iran has not complied with the international community’s demand to stop enriching uranium and isn’t even interested in trying,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the US mission to the UN.
“They leave the Security Council no choice but to increase the sanctions, as called for in the last resolution passed.”
Tehran has not formally responded to the offer. But Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday that Tehran would not back down in its nuclear dispute with the powers, which have supported three rounds of Security Council sanctions.
“In whichever negotiation we take part . . . it is unequivocally with the view to the realisation of Iran’s nuclear right and the Iranian nation would not retreat one iota from its rights,” he said.
A successful space launch with the implicit declaration of an operational MRBM able to loft a nascent nuclear payload. More stalling on the nuclear front. The US distracted and entwined elsewhere. Israel’s vow not to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons and an expanded long-range strike capability being added to its inventry….
Not a matter of weeks, but perhaps a few short months. Time will tell…