The United States warned Iran of new sanctions if it launched three Space Launch Vehicles, that have technology which is akin to that used in ballistic missile.
“We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement he issued on Thursday.
In July 2017, Iran launched a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket it said could deliver a satellite into space, an act the US State Department called provocative. Iranian Deputy Defense Minister General Qassem Taqizadeh in late November was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran would soon launch into space three satellites made by domestic experts.
The launch of those satellites, Pompeo said, “would once again demonstrate Iran’s defiance of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which calls upon the Iranian regime not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
“This action includes launching SLVs, which incorporate technology that is virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles, including in intercontinental ballistic-missiles (ICBMs). An ICBM with a range of 10,000km could reach the United States," Pompeo said.
Iran has launched numerous ballistic missiles since Resolution 2231 was approved in 2015, Pompeo said.
“On December 1, the Iranian regime test-fired a medium range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads, and the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force later said that Iran tests 40 to 50 ballistic missiles every year," he explained.
Such Iranian ballistic missile tests and SLV launches have destabilized the region, Pompeo said. He added that France, Germany, the United Kingdom were also concerned.
“The Iranian regime is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror and has proliferated missiles and related technology to its proxies around the Middle East, further flouting UNSCR 2231. The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk," he said.
Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari retorted on twitter that it was the United States, not Iran, which had violated UN Security Council resolution 2231.
“Iran's launch of space vehicles— & missile tests—are NOT in violation of Res 2231. The US is in material breach of same, & as such it is in no position to lecture anyone on it.
“Reminder to the US: 1. Res 1929 is dead; 2. threats engender threats, while civility begets civility,” he wrote.
Pompeo spoke after the US sudden decision last month withdraw its 2,000 troops from Syria, where it is believed they helped constrain Iran’s military’s ambitions in Syria. It’s a move that many believe weakens the US’s influence in the region.
The Secretary of State attempted to dissuade that understanding by explaining on Fox’s Sean Hannity that the US is combating Iran with a coalition of Arab states and Israel.
“We know that [Iran] is a real threat to the world and to America, and so we have developed relationships with Arab countries and Israel. We’ve brought them together to develop a coalition to keep Americans safe from things going on in the Middle East,” Pompeo said.
Countries like the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Israel “are now working together across multiple fronts,” he said.
The US, he said, will still be able to counter the threat from ISIS in Syria, even when its troops have gone home.
“We haven’t changed our policy about continuing to make sure that there is no ISIS resurgence, and we’re just going to do it in a way that is smarter and better,” he said.
On Thursday Netanyahu addressing the changing Trump administration policy about troop deployment in the Middle East, noting that the US will continue to support the battle against regional threat, while Israel will continue to use its military might.
“President Trump is acting against Iran in the economic sphere and here in Israel we are acting against Iran in the military sphere,” Netanyahu said.
Reuters contributed to this report.