The Trump White House has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets, current and former administration officials told The New York Times on Wednesday.
The officials described it as part of an expanding campaign by the United States to undercut Tehran’s military and isolate its economy.
Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes, noted The New York Times.
Last month, Iran attempted to launch a satellite into space but failed when the satellite failed to reach orbit.
Last week, satellite images were released suggesting that Iran had attempted a second satellite launch. The Islamic Republic did not acknowledge that launch.
The New York Times noted that in the past 11 years, 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed, an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.
The setbacks have not deterred Iran. This week, President Hassan Rouhani singled out Tehran’s missile fleets as he vowed to “continue our path and our military power.”
The launch failures prompted The New York Times to seek out more than a half-dozen current and former government officials who have worked on the American sabotage program over the past dozen years. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the covert program.
The officials described a far-reaching effort, created under President George W. Bush, to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran’s aerospace supply chains. The program was active early in the Obama administration, but had eased by 2017, when Mike Pompeo took over as the director of the CIA and injected it with new resources.
The CIA declined to comment on the sabotage efforts. Government officials asked The Times to withhold some details of its reporting, mostly involving the identities of specific suppliers to the Iranian program, because the effort is continuing.
The January 15 launch came despite a warning by Pompeo, who now serves as Secretary of State, for Iran to cease its efforts to develop ballistic missiles. Pompeo demanded that Iran drop its plans for a space launch, saying such actions would defy UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
UN Security Council resolution 2231, which the US says Iran violates with its ballistic missile tests, enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
The resolution says Iran is “called upon” to refrain for up to eight years from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.
Iran, however, denies its ballistic missile tests violate this resolution. President Hassan Rouhani has stressed in the past that Iran will continue to produce missiles for its defense and does not consider that a violation of international agreements.
The 2015 nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew last year, does not deal with Iran’s ballistic missiles program which remains a concern for the West.
France has in the past expressed concerns over Iran’s ballistic missile program and has suggested that Iran could be sanctioned over it, though it has rejected the idea that these sanctions be tied to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.