Iran launches a rocket Amid Nuclear Talks

As nuclear talks continue, Iran launches a rocket into space
Rocket launch/courtesy of Reuters

Iran uses a satellite carrier rocket to launch three research devices into space, according to state media, as talks in Vienna to resurrect the nuclear deal continue.

According to state media, Iran has launched a satellite carrier rocket into space carrying three research devices, as difficult negotiations over its shattered nuclear deal with world powers continue in Vienna.

The carrier did not specify when the launch took place or what devices it brought with it, according to reports released on Thursday. It was unclear whether any of the objects made it into Earth’s orbit.

The US, which unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions against Iran, has chastised previous launches.

According to a spokesman for the defence ministry, Ahmad Hosseini, the devices were launched at an altitude of 470 kilometers by the Simorgh satellite carrier rocket, whose name translates to “Phoenix” (290 miles). He didn’t go into any more detail.

“The performance of the space center and the performance of the satellite carrier was done properly,” Hosseini was quoted as saying. He called the launch “initial,” implying that more are on the way.

“The research goals set for this launch have been met,” Hosseini said, without going into detail about the study.

The white rocket, emblazoned with the words “Simorgh satellite carrier” and the slogan “We can,” shot into the morning sky from Iran’s Imam Khomeini Spaceport, according to Iranian television. At a nearby desert location, a state television reporter hailed the launch as “another achievement by Iranian scientists.”

Iranian state media recently published a schedule of upcoming satellite launches for the country’s civilian space program. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has its own satellite-launching program, which was successful last year.

The launches have sparked fears in Washington that the technology used to launch satellites could help Iran develop ballistic missiles. Such satellite launches, according to the US, violate a UN Security Council resolution requiring Iran to refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Iran maintains that its satellite launches and rocket tests have no military component, despite the fact that it has long stated that it does not seek nuclear weapons.

Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera from Vienna that the launch was part of Iran’s space program and that it should have no bearing on the ongoing talks in Vienna.

“Iran has been working on its space program for a long time. “It’s launched satellites into orbit a few times,” Marandi said.

“It’s pretty clear that the Iranians will go about their business as usual – whether it’s with their space program or with their… ballistic missile technology,” he added.

“When the US is attempting to prevent Iran from even importing medicine, and the Europeans are assisting the US in prohibiting such imports… Iran must achieve self-sufficiency, and the space program is an obvious part of that effort.”

On Monday, a new round of negotiations began in Vienna in an attempt to resurrect the 2015 agreement.

Diplomats have repeatedly warned that time is running out to re-establish the agreement.

As a result of the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement under former President Donald Trump, Iran now demands the full lifting of sanctions, as well as assurances that Washington will not withdraw again and a period to verify that sanctions are effectively lifted.

Iran received sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program under the agreement.

However, following the US withdrawal and imposition of sanctions, Iran has abandoned those restrictions and is now enriching uranium up to 60% using advanced centrifuges.

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