U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Iran Space Agencies as Zarif Poses Ultimatum to European States

Treasury targets the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute

FILE PHOTO: A frame grab from Iranian state TV shows a rocket carrying a Payam satellite being launched at Imam Khomeini Space Center, Semnan province, Iran, January 15, 2019.

The United States imposed sanctions on the three Iranian space agencies on Tuesday, the Treasury Department said, as Washington ramps up pressure over Tehran's nuclear program.

Treasury targeted the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute, according to a statement on its website. 

"The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. 

He said Iran's Aug. 29 attempt to test a space launch vehicle underscored "the urgency of the threat." 

The United States has warned Iran against rocket launches, fearing the technology used to put satellites in orbit could help it develop the ballistic missile capability needed to launch nuclear warheads. Tehran denies its activity is a cover for such development. 

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump posted on Twitter a photo of what appeared to be the site of a failed Iranian satellite launch.

"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," Pompeo said. 

Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran because he said it did not go far enough. 

Also on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the ISNA News Agency that Tehran will cut its commitments under the nuclear deal unless European states fulfill theirs by Thursday.

He added that this does not mean "end of talks" but that President Hassan Rohani will soon announce the details of the cuts. 

France has proposed offering Iran about $15 billion in credit lines until year-end if Tehran comes fully back into compliance with the deal, a move that hinges on Washington not blocking it, Western and Iranian sources said.