Iran v USA: US defence chiefs reveal ‘security concerns’ over military satellite launch

The Islamic Republic said it had successfully launched its first military satellite in the latest move of a heightened tit-for-tat fight over Tehran’s weapons programme. The satellite, dubbed Noor, was sent into orbit using a long-range rocket, according to an April 22 statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

It is a security concern anytime Iran is testing any type of long-range missile

Army General Mark Milley

US officials have long feared Iran’s pursuit of developing satellite technology is a cover for ballistic missile activity while Tehran has denied working toward a nuclear weapons program.

But Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, said: “Different missiles can do different things, one can carry a satellite and one can carry some sort of device that can explode.

“So, the bottom line is yes, it is a security concern anytime Iran is testing any type of long-range missile.

“They launched a satellite vehicle and I think we publicly stated that it was tumbling, so the satellite itself, not overly concerned about it, but the missile technology, the second and third-order missile technology and the lessons learned from that is a concern.”

The satellite launch came days after the Pentagon claimed that ships from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy took “dangerous and provocative” actions near US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.

Six US military vessels were conducting training operations in international waters when 11 Iranian ships “crossed the bows and sterns of the US vessels at extremely close range and high speeds”.

The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices to the Iranian ships.

Donald Trump later warned Iranian gunboats that harass US ships at sea would be destroyed.

Tensions have soared following Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.

The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half.

In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program and allowed international inspectors into its facilities.

And while Mr Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy has crippled Iran’s economy, slashing its oil exports, Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while sanctions remain in place.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani today repeated Iran’s longstanding criticism of Washington’s decision to exit the nuclear deal, which he called a “stupid mistake”.

He said: “If America wants to return to the deal, it should lift all the sanctions on Tehran and compensate for the reimposition of sanctions.

“Iran will give a crushing response if the arms embargo on Tehran is extended.”

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Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the accord in response to the US decision to quit, but says it wants the agreement to remain in place.

It has criticised European parties to the deal for failing to salvage the pact by shielding its economy from US sanctions.

Mr Rouhani said: “Iran’s nuclear steps are reversible if other parties to the deal fulfil their obligations and preserve Tehran’s interests under the pact.”

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