Pompeo warns Iran against space launches

The Trump administration Thursday warned Iran against planned space rocket launches it said incorporate ballistic missile technology.

“The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist US bans top Myanmar generals from country over attacks on Rohingya Muslims MORE said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

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Iran’s defense ministry has announced plans for three Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) launches in “the coming months,” according to the statement.

Iran last conducted a space launch in July 2017, when Tehran said it successfully launched a satellite. At the time, the State Department called the launch “provocative.”

Then and now, the United States holds that such launches violate United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. The resolution says that Iran “is called upon” not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles, but does not explicitly ban the activity.

The resolution was passed in July 2015 to endorse the Iran nuclear deal. In May, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal.

In his statement Thursday, Pompeo said a space launch would “once again demonstrate Iran’s defiance” of the resolution because the SLVs “incorporate technology that is virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles.”

Iran denies that its space program is a cover for weapons development, holding that the program is peaceful. The head of its space agency has previously offered to cooperate with NASA and share its data with other countries.

Pompeo said Iran has conducted numerous ballistic missile launches since the adoption of the U.N. resolution, including December’s launch of a medium-range missile.

“The United States has continuously cautioned that ballistic missile and SLV launches by the Iranian regime have a destabilizing effect on the region and beyond,” he said. “France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and many nations from around the world have also expressed deep concern.”