In a first since the Biden administration entered the White House, Iran has successfully launched its newest domestic built satellite-carrying rocket, named Zuljanah.
Iranian state TV while not specifying the exact date featured video of the launch Monday which occurred in a daytime desert setting. "State TV said the rocket is capable of carrying a 220-kilogram (485-pound) satellite, adding that the three-stage rocket uses solid fuel in the first and second stages and fluid fuel in the third," according to the AFP.
The launch was a test hailed by officials as utilizing the Islamic Republic's "most powerful rocket engine".
An Iranian defense ministry statement said "the test helped Iran to achieve its most powerful rocket engine... the rocket can be launched using a mobile launching pad."
"It is capable of carrying a single 220 kg satellite or up to 10 smaller ones" with the rocket itself capable of reaching a height of 310 miles, according to the statement.
And state TV added: "The Zuljanah is able to reach a height of 500 km ... The three-stage satellite launcher uses a combination of solid and liquid fuels. It uses solid fuel in the first and second stages and fluid fuel in the third stage."
It is precisely the type of launch previously condemned by the prior Trump administration as a breach of past nuclear deal related commitments. The past administration had accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear capable ballistic missiles under the guise of its "peaceful" space program.
Iran has in recent years sent small satellites into space, namely the IRGC's Noor last year successfully put into orbit.
It's also expected this latest test will come under Western condemnation at a sensitive moment Iran and the US are teasing the possibility of restoring the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA), but with each side telling the other essentially "you move first".
Iran has just informed US officially that US can't simply rejoin the JCPOA without first revoking the Trump sanction that clearly violate it--and that Iran won't enter into bilateral discussions until US does so. It's time for a Biden admin Plan B. https://t.co/R9UqBs2S75— Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) February 1, 2021
The timing is further interesting given Tehran appears to be continuing to develop leverage aimed at getting Biden to quickly lift sanctions and finally return to the JCPOA.
At the start of this week US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News that the administration hopes to negotiate a "longer and stronger" deal, but only after Iran returns to compliance.
At the same time, Tehran is telling the White House that it must drop the Trump-era sanctions first. Blinken's statements also grabbed attention because of the following:
During the interview, taped on Sunday, Blinken said Iran was months away from developing enough nuclear material to create a bomb, in "a matter of weeks", if Iran continues to lift restraints put in place by the 2015 deal.
However, this has pretty much been the same refrain across multiple administrations going back years.