In an interview with NBC on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed out that it was “quite possible” that the United States was sabotaging his country’s space programme thinking it contributes to the development of ballistic missiles on Iranian soil. He also confirmed that Tehran had gone ahead with a second satellite launch earlier this month despite Washington’s stance on it.
This confirmed assumptions made by Colorado-based company Digital Globe, which published images showing that rockets previously spotted at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre were gone, while the launch pad featured burn marks.
“We don’t know yet”, he said. “We need to look into it very carefully”, Zarif commented on the possible sabotage campaign, adding that Tehran is now “looking into the specifics” of it in the wake of a recent report in The New York Times. The outlet cited current and former US officials as saying that the Trump administration had stepped up a George W. bush-initiated programme to sabotage the Islamic Republic’s space and missile programme.
“I’m not saying President Trump’s administration, I’m saying people in President Trump’s administration are trying to create the same eventuality and I believe they will fail”, Zarif said. He expressed hope that “some sense will prevail”, adding that citizens will shortly learn that it’s “suicidal to engage in a war with Iran”.
In the interview Zarif also suggested the “same gang” that kick-started the 2003 Iraq War were “at it again” by calling for a military confrontation with Iran, thereby referring to a recent US-led conference on the Middle East hosted by Poland, where Mike Pence blasted Iran for plotting “a new Holocaust” by opposing Israel and its policies and pursuing its own regional interests in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Pence has demanded that the country’s NATO allies stick to their allegiance and drop the nuclear deal with Iran and join efforts with the US.
Meanwhile, this February marks the 40th anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it is during the last winter month that Iran traditionally demonstrates its achievements in space, reiterating that it does not seek nukes, in line with a UNSC resolution banning Iran from any activity related to building missiles carrying nuclear warheads. Over the past decade, Iran has more than once caused US anger by advancing its space programme: it has sent a number of short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
In May 2018, President Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iranian P5+1 nuclear deal (JCPOA) and introduced crippling sanctions against Tehran and Iranian businesses, thereby prompting the landmark agreement's other signatories to engage in negotiations to try to save it.