Pompeo slams Iran over satellite launch

January 16, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sharply condemned Iran’s firing of a satellite-carrying rocket into space Tuesday, claiming it was carried out in “flagrant” defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to refrain from any activity relating to ballistic missiles.

“The Iranian regime fired off a space launch vehicle today,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Such vehicles incorporate technologies that are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

An Associated Press report from Tehran maintained the satellite-carrying rocket had taken off into space earlier Tuesday, but that scientists failed to put the device into orbit.

Iran has long claimed not to be pursuing or developing nuclear weapons and maintains such satellite launches and rocket tests have no military component. Iranian officials also say such activities don’t violate any United Nations resolutions.

But the Trump administration, which is pushing to isolate the Iranian government following President Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, argues satellite launches actually defy the very U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear accord three years ago.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement Tuesday evening said Iran carried out the latest launch in “defiance of the international community and UN Security Council Resolution 2231.”

While the resolution is neither legally binding nor a trigger for potential punitive measures by the Security Council, it calls specifically upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.

“We have been clear that we will not stand for Iran’s flagrant disregard for international norms,” Mr. Pompeo said. “The United States is working with our allies and partners to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic’s threats, including its missile program, which threatens Europe and the Middle East.”

The Associated Press report, meanwhile, cited Iranian Telecommunications Minister Javad Azari Jahromi as saying Tuesday’s rocket failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch.

Mr. Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. That suggests something went wrong after the rocket pushed the satellite out of the Earth’s atmosphere. He did not elaborate on what caused the failure but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.