Early this week, Iranian television reported that Tehran had launched a solid-fueled rocket into space, which led to questions from world leaders about Iran and the nuclear deal. The rocket was launched at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province, where Iran has often launched rockets with varying degrees of success. Iran has said all along that they had more tests planned for the satellite-carrying rocket, launched first in February of last year. But with increased worries over Tehran’s nuclear program amid decreasing international oversight, the launch is raising some questions from world leaders across the globe.

Experts in Iran say that the rocket is purely interested in launching a satellite. “Ahmad Hosseini, spokesman for Iran’s Defense Ministry, said Zuljanah, a 25.5 meter-long rocket, was capable of carrying a satellite of 220 kilograms (485 pounds) that would ultimately gather data in low-earth orbit and promote Iran’s space industry. Zuljanah is named for the horse of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

”The White House, on the other hand, maintains that it was aware of Iran’s announcement and criticized the move as “unhelpful and destabilizing” in a world that has seen plenty of unrest already this year.

One reason for the questions was the timing of the launch, which came a mere day after the foreign policy chief of the European Union, Josep Borrell, visited Tehran to resuscitate the talks over Iran’s nuclear program. The talks have been stagnant for months. Tehran has implored that Washington get rid of its terrorism sanctions they have placed on its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, but they simply cannot reach a deal. The talks are expected to take place, with Iranian media reporting that the talks would resume soon in a Persian Gulf country, more than likely Qatar.

The unrest has been brewing for years, and the previous U.S. administration certainly didn’t help matters. When Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal in 2018, instigating devastating new sanctions on Iran, the plan seemingly backfired as Tehran increased its nuclear arsenal and created uranium levels that are closer than ever to weapons-grade levels. They also purposefully removed more than two dozen International Atomic Energy Agency cameras from their nuclear sites.

The White House is committed to sanctions because Iran is going against a United Nations Security Council resolution that asks Iran to move away from nuclear weapons. Experts claim that the satellite launch brings Iran closer to launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, but Iran denies that a military component is part of their launches. With their 2013 launching of a monkey into space, things were looking up for the Iran space program, but five straight failed launches for the Simorgh program certainly spelled trouble, along with the fire at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 where 3 researchers died.

Adnan Zai, an Advisor to Berkeley Capital said, “Iran, like any other country has a right to explore space and given that they are honoring their nuclear deal even though the US backed away, it is up to the US to re-engage them in order to make sure they strictly use their technology towards space exploration and not nuclear weapons.”
The world will watch the Persian Gulf in the coming weeks to see what comes of the peace-keeping talks, and to see if Iran gets their satellite launched correctly.