U.S. calls Iranian satellite launch ‘provocative’

Carol Morello — Associated Press July 27, 2017

The Iranian Simorgh rocket was launched Thursday. Click to enlarge

The Iranian Simorgh rocket was launched Thursday. Click to enlarge

The State Department said Thursday that Iran’s launch of a space satellite was a “provocative action” that violates a U.N. resolution on ballistic missiles as well as the spirit of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that reports that Iran had launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space violated U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, which calls on Iran not to conduct any activity involving ballistic missiles that are designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Nauert said the United States regards the launch as “continued ballistic missile development” that is discouraged in the U.N. resolution.

“We consider this to be a provocative action, and a provocative action that undermines the security, the prosperity of those in the region and around the world as well.”

“We believe that what happened overnight in the early morning hours here in Washington is inconsistent with the Security Council resolutions,” she added. “We believe that what happened overnight and into the morning is in violation of the spirit of the” nuclear agreement.”

The launch of a satellite-carrying rocket was reported by Iranian state media on Thursday, but it was unclear exactly when the launch occurred. Officials in Israel and the United States fear Iran could use the technology to produce long-range missiles that could pose a threat to the region, and beyond, if they help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Iran’s defense ministry denies that its space program is a vehicle for weapons development, and the head of its space agency has even offered to cooperate with NASA and share its data with other countries.

The Trump administration has been highly critical of Iran’s ballistic missile tests. This month, the White House certified that Iran was in compliance with its commitments under the nuclear agreement. But while the language on Iran’s nuclear program is precise and extensive, the language involving missiles is ambiguous.

Resolution 2231 was passed in 2015 to endorse the deal in which six world powers, including the United States, agreed to ease nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program. The agreement is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The language on ballistic missiles replaced a resolution dating from 2010 that said Iran “shall not undertake any activity” related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The 2015 version merely “calls on” Iran not to conduct such activity.

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