Iran's latest attempt to launch a satellite into orbit marked the fourth recent space launch operation in a row ending in failure, and yet Iran's space program and Defense Ministry still praised the launch as “remarkable” and vowed to continue to program.
This elicited a response from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Tuesday repeated Washington's longtime charge that Tehran is using the satellite launch program as cover to hone technology related to its ballistic missile capability. Pompeo said technological elements to the launch were “virtually identical” to those necessary a long-range ballistic missile.
“The Iranian regime uses satellite launches to develop its ballistic missile capabilities,” Pompeo's statement charged. “The technologies used to launch satellites into orbit are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in longer range systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles,”
“Each launch, whether failed or not, further allows Iran to gain experience using such technologies that could benefit its missile programs under the guise of a peaceful space program,” the statement continued.
“The United States will continue to build support around the world to confront the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity, and we will continue to impose enormous pressure on the regime to change its behavior,” he said.
Last September, Washington imposed sanctions on Iran's space agency, its space research center, as well as astronautics research institute — given all of these are seen as assisting development of technology related to Iran's ballistic missiles capability.
The State Department's newest official statement goes so far as to suggest the Islamic Republic's fledgling space program is being used to develop effective delivery methods for nuclear warheads.
Pompeo said the launches must be stopped because they aid in "development of systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and we are seeing the dangerous consequences today."
Over the past decade Iran has successfully put several short-lived satellites into orbit, but has been unable to advance beyond this.