US Warns Iran Against Space Launch
The United States on Thursday warned Iran of consequences if it goes ahead with plans to send off three space launch vehicles, charging despite Tehran's denials that the move would violate a UN resolution.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran's satellite-delivery rockets used technology "virtually identical" to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which could eventually include long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.
"The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime's destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation," he said.
Pompeo said that an Iranian launch would defy UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of 2015, which endorsed an international accord on ending the clerical regime's nuclear program and called on Tehran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
US President Donald Trump last year walked out of the Iran deal, which was negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama, instead reimposing sweeping sanctions aimed at crippling the country's economy.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied Pompeo's charges, saying that neither space launches nor missile tests—which Iran says are vital for defense and not nuclear in nature—violated Resolution 2231.
"The US is in material breach of same, & as such it is in no position to lecture anyone on it," he tweeted, referring to the US rejection of the UN-endorsed denuclearization pact.
Iran's deputy defense minister, Brigadier General Ghasem Taghizadeh, said in November that Tehran would launch three satellites into space "in the coming months."
"These satellites have been built with native know-how and will be positioned in different altitudes," he said, as quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Iran has seen economic potential in developing a satellite program, which could build a needed revenue source and also be used for espionage.
But US intelligence has said that the technology could easily be converted to long-range missiles.
Photo Credit: IRNA