Iran’s restored space program launched solid-fueled rocket on Sunday

After six years of massive expenditures and lurid propaganda, Tehran shut down its troubled space program in 2015 but Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi restored funding and Iranian state television showed a solid-fueled rocket launched into space on Sunday, drawing a rebuke from Washington ahead of the resumption of talks over the nuclear deal with world powers shattered by former President Donald Trump.

“The space industry is one of the economic drivers and in the near future will be part of the governance infrastructure in various areas of trade, economics, and security,” Raisi said less than one year ago. “Today, knowledge-based companies, industry, trade, agriculture and tourism can use space services for their development and growth in overcoming climate problems, including water shortages and dozens of other areas.”

Iran says its satellite program, like its nuclear activities, is aimed at scientific research and other civilian applications. The US and other Western countries have long been suspicious of the program because the same technology can be used to develop long-range missiles.

Ahmad Hosseini, spokesperson for the Defense Ministry’s space department, which oversaw the launch, said that the rocket is capable of carrying a 485-pound satellite.

Since Trump scrapped the international accords worked out during the administration of his Democratic predecessor, Tehran’s nuclear program has been racing ahead under decreasing international oversight.

Amid the rapidly escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Biden weighed in charging that Trump increased the odds of a military confrontation by “walking away from diplomacy” with Tehran.

“Trump’s Iran strategy is a self-inflicted disaster,” said Biden.

More than a dozen national organizations sent a letter to President Biden on Friday urging him to show “leadership and political courage” and save the Iran nuclear agreement, saying it’s “perplexing” that he is allowing domestic politics to stand in the way of renewing a sound non-proliferation agreement.

“As organizations committed to diplomatically preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, we are incredibly concerned about the nonproliferation implications of this development,” the letter states. “Now more than ever, leadership and political courage are needed to prevent the complete death of the agreement and evade its likely consequences — war with Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran.”

The groups — which include J Street, Indivisible, and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft — note that Biden himself, and many senior officials in his administration, have previously stated that Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was a “disaster.” Some of these officials have also pointed out, the letter adds, that opponents of the deal pushed Trump to create domestic political poison pills — like designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terror group — for the specific purpose of making it difficult for any successor to re-enter the deal.

“This is why it is all the more perplexing that your administration has allowed this ‘political move’ to stand in the way of a strategically vital renewal of the JCPOA,” they write. “As you and your former colleagues in the Obama administration correctly made clear: Iran is a dangerous actor — but it will be all the more dangerous if it possesses nuclear weapons.”

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