U.S. Sanctions Iran’s Space Program

September 3, 2019

On September 3, the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran’s space program for supporting ballistic missile development. The move came after Iran’s failed attempt to launch a space vehicle on August 29. “Iran’s civilian space launch vehicle program allows it to gain experience with various technologies necessary for development of an ICBM – including staging, ignition of upper-stage engines, and control of a multiple-stage missile throughout flight,” warned the State Department. The United States sanctioned the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes. “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,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The following is a statement by Pompeo and a State Department fact sheet. 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

PompeoToday, the Department of State designated the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities. This is the first time the United States is designating Iran’s civilian space agency for activities that advance its ballistic missile program.

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.

 

New Sanctions Designations on Iran’s Space Program

State Department sealToday, the Department of State designated the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD delivery systems and their supporters – the first time the United States is publicly designating Iran’s civilian space agency.

Space launch vehicle (SLV) technologies, such as those developed by Iran’s space program, are virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles.  Iran’s civilian space launch vehicle program allows it to gain experience with various technologies necessary for development of an ICBM – including staging, ignition of upper-stage engines, and control of a multiple-stage missile throughout flight.

Iran continues to use its space organizations to engage in activities in defiance of UNSCR 2231.  Further, the UN Secretariat continues to document Iran’s attempts to procure prohibited items for its missile program in violation of UNSCR 2231.

Our actions today show the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), why the United States was right to cease participation in it, and the importance of achieving a deal that prevents Iran from developing ballistic missile capabilities that could contribute to a nuclear weapon delivery system.  This is why Secretary Pompeo has called for a new comprehensive deal that addresses all elements of Iran’s malign behavior.

Further, Iran’s accelerating pace of missile activity demonstrates the pressing need to return to the ballistic missile prohibitions contained in UNSCR 1929, which includes the legally-binding provision that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.  We have been clear with our fellow Security Council members about the importance of holding Iran accountable for its defiance of resolutions related to the development and proliferation of ballistic missiles – which includes returning to the standard in UNSCR 1929.

Today’s designations continue U.S. efforts to exert maximum pressure on the Iranian regime to address the threat it poses to international peace and security.  In addition to the blocking of any U.S. assets non-U.S. persons may be exposed to sanctions for providing material support to these entities.  This action should serve as a warning to the international scientific community that collaborating with Iran on space launch vehicles could contribute to its ballistic missile program.

Designated Entities:

  • The Iran Space Agency (ISA) was founded in April 2003 to coordinate and publicize Iran’s space efforts.  It pursues development of communication and remote sensing satellites and launch vehicle technology.  ISA is responsible for carrying out the plans and programs approved by the Supreme Space Council.
  • The Iran Space Research Center (ISRC) is in charge of carrying out the day-to-day work approved by the Supreme Space Council.  It serves as ISA’s primary partner for research and development activities and its research centers account for the majority of ISA’s labor, property holdings, and technical workforce.  ISRC, along with ISA, has worked with the UN-designated liquid propellant ballistic missile organization Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) on several projects.
  • The Astronautics Research Institute (ARI) was established under Iran’s Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology, but is now subordinate to ISA.  It managed the Kavoshgar project, which is launched on the Safir SLV, the first stage of which is based on a Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missile.