For the first time, the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s Space Agency and two of its research institutes for engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities.
In a statement announcing the sanctions designations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “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.”
As the State Department noted, space launch vehicles use virtually identical and interchangeable technologies to those used in ballistic missiles. Iran’s civilian space launch vehicle testing and development activities allow it to gain experience with various technologies necessary for development of an ICBM.
The sanctions imposed on Iran’s space program are part of a maximum pressure campaign the United States has undertaken since ceasing participation in the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018. That campaign targets Iran’s financial, military, shipping, and energy sectors in order to deny the Iranian regime the resources needed to pursue its destabilizing activities and to persuade Iran to negotiate a new comprehensive agreement that addresses the totality of its malign activities.
President Donald Trump has made clear that the United States remains open to negotiations with Iran’s leaders at the right time:
“They want to talk. They want to make a deal. Iran is not the same country it was two and a half years ago, that I can tell you.”
“Iran is a country with tremendous potential,” said President Trump. “And I think they’re going to want to take advantage of that potential.”