At the beginning of February, Iran sent a spy satellite into orbit, the first time it had done so in three years. As you'd expect, they bragged about it, proclaiming it a triumph of national scientific know-how according to Agence France-Presse:

The satellite was locally made, said the official IRNA news agency, as was its launcher, according to [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, who noted that Iran's aim is to have no reliance on foreign space technology.

"Our scientists have entered a new phase for conquering space. We will continue on this path," Rouhani said in a short statement on state television.

Iranian scientists are often very good, and their missiles are excellent, but the satellite was not a product of Persian technology. According to well-informed Iranians, 70 percent of the package is Russian, 20 percent is "Asian," (i.e., North Korean), and the rest comes from Europe. The Iranian input was gluing it together.

The composition of the satellite is significant, as it neatly provides us with the proper context in which to think about the world. It shows us that Tehran is part of a global alliance that stretches from Pyongyang, North Korea through Moscow, across the Middle East and into our own hemisphere, notably Havana, Cuba and Caracas, Venezuela.


I believe that the Iranians, Russians and North Koreans want us to recognize their alliance. Indeed, at the same time the Iranians were launching "their" satellite into orbit, the North Koreans were testing an anti-ship missile with Russian fingerprints all over it. In all likelihood, it's a Russian cruise missile.

It's no coincidence. Russia, Iran and North Korea are in active cahoots. They are pooling resources, including banking systems (the better to bust sanctions), intelligence and military technology, as part of an ongoing war against the West, of which the most melodramatic battlefields are in Syria/Iraq and Ukraine.

To judge by their language, the leaders of the three countries think the tide of world events is flowing in their favor. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered an ultimatum to the West, saying that Iran's war against "evil" would only end with the removal of America. Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny doctor says he could 'die at any moment' Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues Russia blocks key Biden Cabinet officials from entering in retaliation for sanctions MORE marches on in Ukraine, blaming the West for all the trouble, and the North Koreans are similarly bellicose.

They are singing from the same hymnal. And they aim to do us in.

Still, not all is well with our enemies. You wouldn't expect a brutal regime to have trouble carrying out punishment against convicted criminals, but there are several documented cases in which that has occurred. Iran applies the Law of Talion — "an eye for an eye" — so that if someone is convicted for blinding another person, the punishment is to be blinded himself. Yet Iranian doctors frequently refuse to do it, insisting that it violates their oath to "do no harm," and they have stuck to their principles, leaving the guilty parties in jail as the authorities search for a willing doctor.

This is, to be sure, an unusual form of civil disobedience, but I haven't seen any reports of those doctors being punished for it. Which is not to suggest that human rights are improving in Iran, any more than they are in Russia or North Korea. Quite the contrary, in fact. Human Rights Watch, which is not notoriously tough on the Islamic Republic, recently published a grim analysis of the worsening treatment of the Iranian people.

Perhaps the doctors' disobedience will carry over to broader segments of the society.

Ledeen, the author of more than 30 books, is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He was special adviser to former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and a consultant to the national security adviser during the Reagan administration.