US Levies More Sanctions After Rocket Launch

US Levies More Sanctions After Rocket LaunchUS Levies More Sanctions After Rocket Launch

The United States penalized Iran on Friday for launching a satellite-carrying rocket into space by hitting six Iranian entities with sanctions targeting the country's ballistic missiles program.

Three European nations that helped broker the landmark Iran nuclear deal in 2015 joined the US in condemning the launch. At the United Nations, US Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed Iran was "breaking its obligation", AP reported.

"Under this administration, the United States will not let Iran off the hook for behavior that threatens our interests and our allies," Haley said. "We will continue to impose consequences until Iran stops its provocations and complies fully with Security Council resolutions."

The US sanctions hit six Iranian subsidiaries of Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, described by the Treasury Department as "central" to Iran's ballistic missiles program. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cast the sanctions as part of an ongoing US effort to aggressively oppose Iran's ballistic missile activity, including what he called a "provocative space launch" carried out by the Islamic Republic on Thursday.

In another allegation against Iran, Mnuchin said missile attacks on US partner Saudi Arabia over the weekend by Houthi fighters in Yemen had likely come with the support of Iran. The US has long accused Tehran of shipping weapons to the Houthis, a Shia group that controls part of Yemen and is being fought by a Saudi-led coalition.

The sanctions came a day after Iran successfully launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, in what was likely a major advancement for the country's space program. The Simorgh rocket is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 250 kilograms.

US officials believe the Simorgh could act as a test bed for developing the technologies needed to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile, but Tehran says its space program is totally separate from its missile activities.

In a joint statement, the US, Britain, Germany and France called the launch "inconsistent" with the UN Security Council resolution enshrining the nuclear deal, adding that such activities destabilize the region. The grouping represented all of the western nations that are part of the nuclear deal, which also includes Russia, China and the European Union.

"We condemn this action," the countries said. "We call on Iran not to conduct any further ballistic missile launches and related activities."

The UNSC resolution calls on Iran to refrain from development of ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads. The country says its missiles are not nuclear-capable and are meant only for conventional deterrence.

***Bad Faith

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pushed back on any suggestion his country had done anything wrong by launching the satellite into space. He said Friday that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and drew a contrast with the US, accusing Washington of not complying with "the letter and spirit" of the deal.

"Rhetoric and actions from the US show bad faith," Zarif said.

He also rejected the notion that Iran was working to develop missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead.

"Iran is not and will not be developing nuclear weapons; so by definition cannot develop anything designed to be capable of delivering them," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Britain, Germany and France also said they were raising their concerns directly to the Islamic Republic. Despite brokering the nuclear deal, the US does not maintain regular diplomatic relations with Iran.

The US penalties reflect an attempt by US President Donald Trump's administration to show it is staying tough on Iran even though Trump has yet to scrap the 2015 nuclear agreement, despite threatening to do so as a candidate and labeling it a bad deal.

Under Trump, like under former president, Barack Obama, the US has continued to sanction Iran for non-nuclear behavior such as ballistic missile activity that is not explicitly covered under the nuclear deal. Trump's administration has also been pushing for inspections of sensitive Iranian military sites where US intelligence agencies allege Iran may be conducting illicit activity prohibited by the nuclear pact.

The six entities being sanctioned contribute to Iran's liquid propellant ballistic missiles, the Treasury Department said, including development and manufacturing of engines, launchers, guide-and-control systems and ground support as well as the liquid propellant itself. The sanctions freeze any assets the entities may have in the US and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.


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