US hits Iran with fresh sanctions over space launch

US accuses Iran of violating UN convention after launching a satellite-carrying rocket into space on Thursday.

Iran space test
Iran launched its Simorgh satellite rocket at an undisclosed location in Iran on Thursday. [Handout/Iranian Defence Ministry/AFP]

The United States has hit Iran with new sanctions in response to its launch of a satellite-carrying rocket into space.

The ballistic missiles sanctions, announced on Friday, target six Iranian subsidiaries of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, which the US treasury department says is “central” to Iran’s ballistic missiles programme.

On Thursday, Iran successfully tested a rocket that can deliver satellites into orbit.

The same day, Iranian state television showed footage of the firing of the rocket, mounted on a launchpad, carrying pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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The US said the rocket launch violated the UN Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal and called upon Iran to not undertake activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such technology.

The resolution stops short of explicitly barring such activity.

In a joint statement on Friday, Britain, France and Germany joined the US in condemning the satellite-launch rocket test, saying it was in violation of the resolution. 

“Iran’s programme to develop ballistic missiles continues to be inconsistent with UNSCR 2231 and has a destabilising impact in the region,” the statement said. “We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities.”

The six entities being sanctioned contribute to Iran’s liquid propellant ballistic missiles, the US treasury department said, including development and manufacturing of engines, launchers, guide-and-control systems and ground support as well as the liquid propellant itself.

The sanctions freeze any assets the entities may have in the US and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

‘US shows bad faith’

Steven Mnuchin, US treasury secretary, said the sanctions illustrate deep US concerns about Iran’s missile testing and other actions.

“These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile programme, and underscore the US’ deep concerns with Iran’s continued development and testing of ballistic missiles and other provocative behaviour,” Mnuchin said.

The nuclear deal does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

Iran has denied it has missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.

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On Friday, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said his country is complying with the nuclear deal and suggested that the US is not complying with the “letter and spirit” of the deal.

“Rhetoric and actions from the US show bad faith,” he said.

“Iran is not and will not be developing nuclear weapons; so by definition cannot develop anything designed to be capable of delivering them.”

The fresh sanctions come as Donald Trump‘s administration continues debating its Iran policy and whether to scrap the 2015 nuclear deal.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, the US president promised to “rip up” the “worst deal ever made”.

Last week, the US hit Iran with fresh sanctions, designating 18 individuals and entities for supporting what it said were “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity”.

Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile programme and its foreign ministry said it would impose its own sanctions against US citizens.

Last week’s sanctions came just a day after the US administration declared that Iran was complying with the landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago.

US officials said the “conditions had been met”, but Iran is “unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the agreement.

Iran countered the US accusation, saying that it had violated the deal.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said the US was “trying to sabotage the situation, to threaten or scare off foreign companies to invest in Iran”.

Source: News Agencies