Iran launched its fourth satellite into space yesterday, Feb. 2. The Fajr (Dawn) satellite — which was built domestically and launched using an Iranian Safir-e Fajr satellite carrier — is to be used for observational purposes, according to Iranian officials.
However, US State Department officials, concerned about Iran’s long-range missile program, condemned the move. During a press briefing yesterday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked by a reporter for the US reaction. She replied, “As we’ve said before, Iran’s missile program continues to pose a dangerous threat to the region and is an issue we monitor closely.”
Psaki added, “One of the issues we are taking up in the negotiations, as you know, is how to deal with the ballistic capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads. That issue has been discussed and will continue to be discussed as part of the negotiations.”
When pressed further on whether Iran’s ballistic missiles are being discussed in ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Psaki said, “As a part of the negotiations. That’s long been the case.”
Iranian nuclear negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi denied Psaki's claims, saying today, “Iran’s missile program has a completely defensive nature and the Islamic Republic of Iran in no way views the defensive matters of the country negotiable and we are not ready to discuss this matter with any foreigner.”
Araghchi added, “Therefore, never in the framework of the nuclear talks with the P5+1, whether in the past or currently, has Iran given permission to plan or negotiate the country’s defensive and military abilities, and this permission will not be given in the future.”
Araghchi said that launching of Fajr was part of Iran’s long term plan to have a “presence in space and strengthen the communication and information infrastructure of the country.”
This is not the first misunderstanding between Iran and the United States regarding negotiations and Iran’s missile program. In February 2014, US negotiator Wendy Sherman told a Senate hearing that Iran’s missile program would be addressed in a comprehensive deal. Araghchi denied her claim, saying that Iran’s defense-related issues were a “red line.”
The launch of the Fajr satellite was a much touted affair in the Iranian media as Iran's National Day of Space Technology approaches. President Hassan Rouhani appeared on national television before the launch to “give permission to launch the national Fajr satellite with the indigenous Safir-e Fajr satellite carrier.” Afterward, Rouhani told a reporter that he is “determined to continue national progress.”
Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan said, “The Fajr satellite was produced and sent into space by our youth under [challenging] conditions, limitations and obstacles. All of the components of this satellite, from the satellite carrier to its subsystems, was designed and built by the youth of Islamic Iran.”
Iran previously launched three other satellites, including Omid (Hope) in February 2009, Rassad (Observation) in June 2011 and Navid-e Elm-o Sanat (Harbinger of Science and Industry) in February 2012.