Iran defiant amid US warnings against space programme

Foreign Minister Zarif says leaving nuclear deal an option as Tehran rules out talks with US on its ballistic missiles.

Iran Zarif
Iran insists that it is not pursuing any nuclear weapons programme, despite scepticism from the West [Altaf Qadri/AP]

Iran will continue with its aerospace programme despite warnings of more economic and political isolation by the United States, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, adding there was no international law prohibiting the plan.

Zarif, who is in New Delhi on a bilateral visit, also told Reuters news agency that leaving a 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed between Iran and world powers is an option Tehran could take, but is not the only one on the table.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles.

Iran has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly the missile programme run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is not covered by the nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Citing the US-backed invasion of Iran by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 1980, Tehran insisted that its programme is designed purely to defend the country from future regional threats.

It also insists that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, despite scepticism from the West.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran against pursuing three planned space rocket launches he said would violate the UN Security Council Resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.

Pompeo said Iran’s planned Space Launch Vehicles (SLV) incorporate technology “virtually identical” to what is used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“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.”

Final touches before launch

Pompeo also said Iran had launched ballistic missiles numerous times since the UN resolution was adopted. He said it test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads on December 1.

In November, Iranian Deputy Defence Minister General Qassem Taqizadeh was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran would soon launch three satellites made by domestic experts into space.


US President Donald Trump last year walked out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Since then, he has reimposed sweeping sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s economy.

Trump said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

European powers still support the JCPOA, noting that Iran is in compliance while sharing the same concerns about missiles. UN-backed nuclear inspectors also said that Iran continues to abide by the conditions of the nuclear deal.

In July 2017, Iran launched a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket it said could deliver a satellite into space, an act the US State Department called provocative. Earlier that month, the US imposed new economic sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Amirkabir University of Technology said that it was putting the final touches to the Payam (Message) satellite, which it said was equipped with four cameras and could be used for agricultural, forestry and other peaceful purposes, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The satellite, weighing about 100kg, is to be launched by a state-run space centre into an orbit of 500km using a Simorgh rocket.

Iranian media reports said the Payam launch may coincide with celebrations in early February marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies