The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s space agency for the first time on Tuesday, accusing the regime of developing ballistic missiles under the guise of a civilian program aimed at launching satellites into orbit.
In a press statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Iran Space Agency of “engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities” linked to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“Today, the Department of State designated the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities,” the statement read. “This is the first time the United States is designating Iran’s civilian space agency for activities that advance its ballistic missile program.”
The announcement comes after repeatedly unsuccessful rocket launch attempts from Iran’s space center, actions that the U.S. argues are a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution as the rockets use the same technology used for ballistic missiles.
“The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs. Iran’s August 29 attempt to launch a space launch vehicle underscores the urgency of the threat,” Pompeo continued. “These designations should serve as a warning to the international scientific community that collaborating with Iran’s space program could contribute to Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon delivery system.”
Iran claims it is developing rockets to send into orbit, which it has done twice since 2013. Last week was the third time a rocket exploded at an Iranian Center, raising suspicions of military activity. Following news of the explosion, President Donald Trump published a message wishing Tehran “good luck” in its efforts.
“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump wrote on Twitter, in reference to Iran’s Safir space launch vehicle. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One. pic.twitter.com/z0iDj2L0Y3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
Iran government spokesman Ali Rabiei insisted on Monday that it was “a technical matter and a technical error.”
“The explosion happened at the launchpad and no satellite had yet been transferred to the launchpad,” said Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei. “It happened at a test site, not at the launch site.”
The new sanctions form part of Washington’s continued economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Iranian regime since Trump unilaterally withdrew last year from former President Barack Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department also placed sanctions on a large oil shipping network “enabling the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, to sell illicit oil for the benefit of the brutal Assad regime, Hizballah, and other terrorist actors.”
“These designations highlight the Iranian regime’s use of deceptive tactics to sell its oil. The maritime community must do its diligence to ensure it does not fund Iran-backed terrorism,” the department said in a statement. “The United States will continue to work with our allies to deny Iran the resources it uses to fund terrorist proxies and destabilize the Middle East.”