Morrell responded to questions about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement that Iran had launched its first Iranian-built satellite into orbit. A domestically built Ambassador-2 or Safir-2 rocket reportedly carried the satellite into space.
Iran has “officially achieved a presence in space,” Ahmadinejad declared as Iran observed the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The launch heightened concern that Iran could take the next step of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
“It is certainly a reason for us to be concerned about Iran and its continued attempts to develop a ballistic missile program of increasingly long range,” Morrell said today. “Obviously, there are dual-use capabilities in the technology here which could be applied toward the development of a long-range ballistic missile.”
The United States isn’t the only country concerned about Iran’s activities. “Everybody in the region,” including Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as U.S. allies in Europe and Russia, has raised concern, Morrell said.
During conversations with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin referred to Iran’s activities as Russia’s “No. 1 security threat,” Morrell said.
Yesterday’s launch only reinforced these concerns about Iran, Morrell told reporters.
“We have long recognized … that they pose a real threat, and it is a growing threat, and that they are determined to develop long-range ballistic missiles,” he said. “And I think all of Europe has recognized that to be the case, and that is why they unanimously embraced a third site for missile defense in Europe.”
NATO plans to put a European missile defense system in place to combat missiles fired from rogue states such as Iran. The radar for the NATO system will be in the Czech Republic, and the 10 interceptor missiles will be based in Poland.
Deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood called today for increased pressure from the international community, including Russia and China, to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Russia and China share our concern about what Iran has been doing, not only with regard to its nuclear program, but … with regard to missile technology,” he said.
“I think, frankly, everyone can do better with regard to trying to limit Iran’s ability to act … with regard to missile technology and its nuclear program.”
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibits Iran from engaging in missile-related activities.