New U.S. sanctions hit at Iran after rocket launched into space
WASHINGTON — The United States punished Iran on Friday for its launch into space this week of a satellite-carrying rocket, hitting six Iranian entities with sanctions targeting the country’s ballistic-missile program.
Three European nations that helped broker the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 joined the U.S. in condemning the launch and said it was too close for comfort to the type of intercontinental ballistic missiles used to deliver a nuclear payload.
At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Iran was “breaking its obligation” and added, “We can’t trust them.”
“Under this administration, the United States will not let Iran off the hook for behavior that threatens our interests and our allies,” Haley said.
The U.S. sanctions hit six Iranian subsidiaries of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, described by the Treasury Department as “central” to Iran’s ballistic- missile program. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin cast the sanctions as part of an ongoing U.S. effort to aggressively oppose Iran’s ballistic missile activity, including what he called a “provocative space launch” carried out Thursday by the Islamic Republic.
“These sanctions target key entities involved in Iran’s ballistic-missile program, and underscore the United States’ deep concerns with Iran’s continued development and testing of ballistic missiles and other provocative behavior,” Mnuchin said.
In another allegation against the U.S. adversary, Mnuchin said missile attacks on U.S. partner Saudi Arabia over the weekend by Houthi rebels in Yemen had likely come with the support of Iran. The U. S. has long accused Tehran of shipping weapons to the Houthis, a Shiite group that controls part of Yemen and is being fought by a Saudi-led coalition.
The sanctions come a day after Iran launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space. The Simorgh rocket is capable of carrying a satellite weighing 550 pounds, Iran state television said.
The U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center said in a report released last month that the Simorgh could act as a test bed for developing the technologies needed to produce an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In a joint statement, the U.S., Britain, Germany and France called the launch “inconsistent” with the U.N. 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 nations stopped short of saying the launch had “violated” the U.N. resolution, saying only that it was “inconsistent” with the text. That’s because the resolution calls upon, but doesn’t oblige, Iran to refrain from ballistic-missile development.
Yet Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that his country is complying with the nuclear deal that Iran struck with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015. Zarif contrasted that with the U.S., which he suggested was not complying with “the letter and spirit” of the deal.
“Rhetoric and actions from the U.S. show bad faith,” Zarif said.
He also rejected the notion that Iran was working to develop missiles that could carry a nuclear warhead.
The penalties reflect an attempt by President Donald Trump’s administration to show it’s staying tough on Iran even though Trump has yet to scrap the 2015 nuclear deal, despite threatening to do so as a candidate and arguing it’s a bad deal.