WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday posted on Twitter a photo of what appeared to be the site of a failed Iranian satellite launch.
The black-and-white photo showed the fire-blasted launch site at a space center in northern Iran including a damaged gantry service tower and a downed mobile erector launcher.
Trump, in his tweet, cited the specific location of the site, saying the United States was not involved in the “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran.”
The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One. pic.twitter.com/z0iDj2L0Y3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
While specifics about the incident remain unclear, it marked the third failure involving a launch at the center, which has raised suspicions of sabotage in Iran’s space program.
Speaking to reporters at the White House later on Friday, Trump defended his posting of the photo and reiterated that the United States had nothing to do with the incident.
“We had a photo. I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” Trump said.
He said the Iranians “were going to set off a big missile and it didn’t work out too well. Had nothing to do with us.”
The rocket exploded on its launch pad at the Imam Khomeini Space Center on Thursday, an Iranian official said. A U.S. official also said Iran suffered a satellite launch failure.
“I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One,” Trump said in his tweet.
Patrick Eddington, a former CIA satellite imagery analyst, said the photograph tweeted by Trump appeared to be a classified image taken by a U.S. spy satellite.
The Pentagon did not have any immediate comment.
The United States has warned Iran against rocket launches, saying that the technology used to put satellites into orbit could enable Tehran to develop the ballistic missile capability needed to launch nuclear warheads.
Tehran denies the U.S. accusation that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development.
Trump has offered to hold talks with Iran but Tehran says first it must get relief from U.S. sanctions.
Increasing Pressure on Iran
Trump has been increasing pressure on Iran’s leaders since May 2018, when he quit the Iran nuclear deal and signed an Executive Order to reimpose tight sanctions on Iran previously lifted as a part of the deal. The sanctions are an effort to force the Islamic regime to change a plethora of activities the administration finds unacceptable.
“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Trump said at the time. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
The Trump administration demanded that Iran halts not only its nuclear technology development, but also its ballistic missile program, support for terrorists and militias in the region, and other destabilizing activities.
Trump announced in April that the administration won’t renew waivers from the sanctions for countries still importing Iranian oil, in order to completely shut down Iranian oil exports, which are a lifeline of the regime.
By Reuters reporter Steve Holland
Epoch Times Staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report