The Trump administration on Tuesday announced sanctions against the Iranian Space Agency as tensions continue to escalate between Washington and Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the sanctions were implemented against the space program and two of its research institutes for what the administration says are efforts to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.
“The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs. Iran’s August 29 attempt to launch a space launch vehicle underscores the urgency of the threat.
These designations should serve as a warning to the international scientific community that collaborating with Iran’s space program could contribute to Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon delivery system,” Pompeo said.
The announcement comes after several failed rocket tests at Iran’s space center. The U.S. said the tests violated a United Nations Security Council resolution because the rockets incorporate the same technology used for ballistic missiles.
President Trump Friday denied any U.S. involvement after Iran’s latest failed launch, appearing to sarcastically wish Tehran “good luck” in determining the cause.
“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” Trump tweeted, referring to Iran’s Safir space launch vehicle. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
Iran has maintained that the last launch failed due to a technical issue.
“The explosion happened at the launchpad and no satellite had yet been transferred to the launchpad,” Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said last week, according to The Associated Press. “It happened at a test site, not at the launch site.”
The already faulty relationship between Washington and Tehran began deteriorating last year when President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear pact, leading Iran to surpass the deal’s limits on its uranium enrichment. The administration has since adopted a “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, slapping sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, metals sector, foreign minister and supreme leader to force it back to the negotiating table.
The U.S. has also panned Iran for its suspected role in bombing oil tankers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and downing a U.S. surveillance drone. Trump approved a retaliatory strike over the drone in June but aborted the attack after being informed that up to 150 Iranians could be killed.