By Joel Gehrke
Source: The Washington Examiner
Iran must not to proceed with a series of space-related tests that could disguise a ballistic missile program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Thursday.
“The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Pompeo said in a statement. “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.”
That rhetorical shot across the bow came in response to Iran’s announcement the regime is prepared to launch three satellites, while developing an array of other space-related technology. Pompeo cited the plans as an example of the regime flouting the international consensus against Iran developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“This action includes launching [space-launch vehicles], which incorporate technology that is virtually identical to that used in ballistic missiles, including in intercontinental ballistic-missiles (ICBMs),” Pompeo said. “An ICBM with a range of 10,000km could reach the United States.”
Iran has three satellites “ready to launch,” regime officials said last month. “We hope that satellite Zafar will be ready by the end of this [Iranian] year (started on March 21) and we will pursue its launch next year,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami, a top commander in the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corp, also told the semi-official FARS news outlet on Saturday.
U.S. assessments concede that Iran has a space program “that is not simply a cover for ICBM development,” as a recent report from the Congressional Research Service put it. And, for a time, the U.S. intelligence community thought Iran lacked the kind of support from Russia or China that would be necessary to build such missiles.
But that view might be changing.
“Iran has successfully orbited satellites using its ICBM-class booster as early as this year. In light of these advances we assess Iran may be able to deploy an operational ICBM by 2020 if the regime chooses to do so,” Adm. Bill Gortney, then commander of U.S. Northern Command, told lawmakers in April 2016.
Pompeo’s warning comes amid an overhaul of U.S. policy in Syria, due to President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from the country despite previously saying they needed to remain in place to thwart Iranian advances.
“America is on the decline and today, they themselves confess to their weakness in the face of Iran,” Barari said Sunday. “Iran is now so powerful that they do not dare mention the military option against Iran anymore.”