US says Iran military satellite launch might defy UN resolution

The US says the same technology used by Iran to put satellites into orbit could be used to create ballistic missiles

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 22, 2020. A controversial decision on whether to annex much of the West Bank is the prerogative of Israel's new unity government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said April 22, 2020. "As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions," Pompeo told reporters. "That's an Israeli decision."
 / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for Iran to be held accountable for the launch of a military satellite, adding that he thinks the action defied a UN Security Council resolution.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday it had successfully launched the country's first military satellite into orbit, at a time of heightened tensions with the United States over Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

The US military says the same long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also allow Tehran to launch longer-range weapons, perhaps eventually including nuclear warheads.

Tehran denies US assertions that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development and says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.

TOPSHOT - This handout photo provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official website via SEPAH News shows an Iranian military satellite -- dubbed the Nour --  which the Revolutionary Guards said on April 22, 2020 was launched from the Qassed two-stage launcher in the Markazi desert, a vast expanse in Iran's central plateau, amid tensions with US.  Iran's Revolutionary Guards announced on April 22 that they had successfully launched the country's first military satellite, at a time of fresh tensions with US forces in the Gulf. The United States alleges Iran's satellite programme is a cover for its development of missiles, while the Islamic republic has previously insisted its aerospace activities comply with its international obligations.
 -  RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Iran's Revolutionary Guard via SEPAH NEWS" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / SEPAH NEWS / - /  RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Iran's Revolutionary Guard via SEPAH NEWS" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

A 2015 UN resolution "called upon" Iran to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons following an agreement with six world powers to limit its nuclear program.

Some states argue the language does not make it obligatory.

"Every nation has an obligation to go to the United Nations and evaluate whether this missile launch was consistent with that Security Council resolution," Mr Pompeo told reporters, referring to UN Security Council resolution 2231.

"I don't think it remotely is, and I think Iran needs to be held accountable for what they have done," he added.

Most UN sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in January 2016 when the UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. But Iran is still subject to a UN arms embargo, which is due to expire in October, and other restrictions.

The UN sanctions and restrictions on Iran are contained in the 2015 resolution, which also enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. Tensions have flared between Washington and Tehran since US President Donald Trump's administration in 2018 withdrew from the accord and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

President Trump said the deal, designed to put curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions, did not include restrictions on Iran's ballistic missile program and support for its proxies in the Middle East.

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