After Elon Musk claimed that SpaceX will ask for a sanctions waiver in order to be able to ship Starlink satellite internet antennas to Iran, the US government has indicated that it is not prohibited at all. As reported by the Reuters news agency, the US Treasury Department has said that certain satellite communications technology is not covered by the existing sanctions against the Islamic Republic. In return, she expressly welcomes applications for specific delivery licenses to support Internet freedom in Iran. Without referring directly to Starlink, it says that certain exports, such as “satellite terminals for private individuals,” are allowed.
With Starlink antennas against internet blocks
The US billionaire once again triggered the clarification with a tweet. In view of the violent protests and recent Internet blocks in Iran, the science journalist Erfan Kasraie Musk asked whether it was technically possible to offer Starlink to Iranians. Musk had responded that the provider would ask for an exemption from the draconian US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The main aim is to offer people in the country Internet access that is not controlled by the regime in Tehran. Only a few days ago, this restricted the Internet again in the face of a wave of protests. The trigger was the death of a 22-year-old woman a few days after her arrest by the vice squad.
It is at least doubtful whether Starlink antennas would actually be a useful tool in the fight against Iranian Internet blocking, Internet censorship and Internet surveillance. So far, satellite internet is not available in any of the neighboring countries, but ground stations that are geographically relatively close would be necessary, with which the satellites can connect if an internet connection is set up from Iran. According to unofficial Starlink maps, there seems to be such a ground station in Saudi Arabia, where the service is scheduled to be activated in 2023. In addition, the antennas would then presumably have to be smuggled into the country past the regime of the Islamic Republic. But they are not inconspicuous and cannot be used secretly for long, without an unobstructed view of the sky they refuse to work.
SpaceX has been building Starlink since 2019, and well over 2000 active satellites are currently connecting large parts of North America, Europe and parts of South America and Australia. So far there have only been tests in Africa, Asia and Antarctica, but the service has already reached all seven continents. In the future, 30,000 satellites, allegedly in regions that cannot be connected economically using conventional technology, are to be given fast Internet access via Starlink. Most recently, there were mainly reports about airlines and then also a cruise company that secured the service for their customers. Starlink also helped connect hundreds of thousands of people in Ukraine after the Russian war of aggression began.
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