Iran ignores US warnings over plan to send satellites into space

Iran will put two satellites into orbit in coming weeks using domestically made missiles, President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday, a week after Washington warned it not to pursue three planned space rocket launches.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tehran against pursuing launches that he said would violate a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.

The United States is concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used to launch warheads.

Iran, which considers its space programme a matter of national pride, has said its space vehicle launches and missile tests were not violations and would continue.

“In the coming weeks, we will put two satellites into space using our Iran-made missiles,” Mr Rouhani said, Iranian state TV reported. He gave no further details about the satellites.

Mr Pompeo had said Iran planned to launch in the coming months three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), that he said incorporate technology “virtually identical” to that used in intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Under the UN Security Council Resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – which Washington pulled out of last spring – the country is “called upon” to refrain from work for up to eight years on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since the US pullout in May, followed by President Donald Trump reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the multinational agreement in 2016.

Iran launched its first domestically built satellite, the OMID (Hope) research and telecoms satellite, in 2009.

Earlier yesterday Mr Pompeo delivered a scathing rebuke of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies, accusing the former president of “misguided” and “wishful” thinking that diminished America’s role in the region, harmed its longtime friends and emboldened its main foe: Iran.

In a speech to the American University in Cairo, Mr Pompeo unloaded on Mr Trump’s predecessor, saying he was naive and timid when confronted with challenges posed by the revolts that convulsed the Middle East, including Egypt, beginning in 2011.

Mr Pompeo laid the blame notably on a vision outlined by President Barack Obama in a speech he gave in Cairo in 2009 in which he spoke of “a new beginning” for US relations with countries in the Arab and Muslim world.

“Remember: It was here, here in this very city, another American stood before you,” Mr Pompeo told an audience of Egyptian officials, foreign diplomats and students.

“He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology. He told you 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East. He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ The results of these misjudgements have been dire.

“In falsely seeing ourselves as a force for what ails the Middle East, we were timid about asserting ourselves when the times – and our partners – demanded it,” Mr Pompeo said, without mentioning the former president by name.

Mr Pompeo’s speech during a Middle East tour aimed at reassuring Arab partners that the Trump administration is not walking away from the region amid confusion and concern over plans to withdraw US forces from Syria.

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