Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) surprised the world last week with a successful launch of its first military satellite dubbed Nour (light) into the Earth’s orbit.
The satellite was on board a previously unknown launch vehicle named Qased, or messenger, and was deployed from a military base in Semnan province, east of the capital, Tehran.
The launch – carried out on the 41st anniversary of IRGC’s establishment – brought an end to a string of previous failures in developing Iran’s aerospace programme. Tehran has not released much information about the initiative, but Major-General Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s chief, described it as a “multi-purpose” satellite that expands the Revolutionary Guard’s “strategic intelligence”.
Reactions to the satellite launch came quick. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tehran should be held accountable while citing UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
“Every nation has an obligation to go to the United Nations and evaluate whether this missile launch was consistent with that Security Council resolution,” he told journalists.
The launch also raised alarm in Tel Aviv. “Israel strongly condemns the launch of a military satellite by the Revolutionary Guard, a terrorist organisation recognised as such by the United States,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, calling for new sanctions against Tehran.
Germany, France and the UK also expressed concern. Russia announced the deployment did not violate any UN resolutions.
Iran also rejected Pompeo’s accusation saying Resolution 2231 does not ban it from launching satellites. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif slammed the US and Europe for misreading the resolution and reiterated Tehran’s missiles are not designed to carry nuclear weapons.