WASHINGTON — The nation's top military officer said Tuesday that Iran's recent military satellite launch, the first for the rogue regime, is a concerning feat.
"Different missiles can do different things, one can carry a satellite and one can carry some sort of device that can explode. So, the bottom line is yes, it is a security concern anytime Iran is testing any type of long-range missile," explained Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley.
"They launched a satellite vehicle and I think we publicly stated that it was tumbling, so the satellite itself, not overly concerned about it, but the missile technology, the second and third-order missile technology and the lessons learned from that is a concern," he added.
Iran said last month that it successfully launched the nation's first military satellite, another move in the heightened tit-for-tat fight between Washington and Tehran over the regime's missile programs.
The satellite, dubbed Noor, was sent into orbit using a long-range rocket, according to an April 22 statement by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
U.S. officials have long feared that Iran's pursuit of developing satellite technology is a cover for ballistic missile activity. Tehran, meanwhile, has denied those assertions and has said that Iran is not working toward a nuclear weapons program.
The satellite launch came days after the Pentagon claimed that ships from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy took "dangerous and provocative" actions near U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf.
Six U.S. military vessels were conducting training operations in international waters when 11 Iranian ships "crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds," according to a U.S. Navy statement.
The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships' horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices to the Iranian ships.
President Donald Trump warned that the United States would destroy Iranian gunboats that harass American ships at sea.
"I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," the president wrote in a post on Twitter.
The threat, which contributed to a recovery in oil prices, represents another anxious turn in relations between Washington and Tehran.
Tensions have soared following Trump's withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration.
The 2015 nuclear agreement lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program and allowed international inspectors into its facilities.
And while Trump's "maximum pressure" policy has crippled Iran's economy, slashing its oil exports, Tehran has said it will not negotiate with Washington while sanctions are in place.
What's more, the Trump administration has previously said that it will not offer sanctions relief to Iran as the deadly coronavirus outbreak further isolates and cripples the Middle Eastern nation.
"The whole world should know that humanitarian assistance to Iran is wide open, it's not sanctioned," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a March 20 press briefing at the White House.
"We are doing everything we can to facilitate the humanitarian assistance moving in and to make sure that the financial transactions connected to that can take place as well. There is no sanction on medicines going to Iran, there is no sanctions on humanitarian assistance going into that country. They've got a terrible problem there and we want that humanitarian, medical assistance to get to the people of Iran," the nation's top diplomat added.