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US slaps sanctions on Iran space program over missile work

Iranian Simorgh rocket - The opening of Imam Khomeini National Space Agency (RA). (Tasnim News Agency/Released)
September 04, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s civilian space agency and two of its research institutes, saying they are being used to advance Tehran’s missile program.

The new sanctions target the Iran Space Agency, the Iran Space Research Center, and the Astronautics Research Institute, the U.S. Treasury Department said on September 3, accusing these entities of developing ballistic missiles under the cover of a civilian program to launch satellites into orbit.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Washington “will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs.”

“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,” Pompeo said.

The state secretary said Iran’s attempt last week to test a space launch vehicle underscored “the urgency of the threat.”

Iran on September 2 confirmed an August 29 explosion at one of its launch pads at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in the north of the country, saying it was due to a technical malfunction.

The explosion is believed to be the third failure involving an Iranian rocket this year.

Washington accuses Tehran of using the technology to launch satellites into orbit as part of its effort to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran denies the accusation.

The country has sent several satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 claimed to have launched a monkey into space.

The sanctions are part of a U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran to force Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missiles programs.

Washington last year withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy.