WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States believes an Iranian military satellite launch this week was overseen by a high-ranking commander involved in past attacks on American targets, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a declassified assessment of the launch determined that it was overseen by Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, at a site in eastern Iran.
Hajizadeh was behind the downing of a U.S. military drone in the Gulf last June, a missile attack on U.S. service members in Iraq in January, and the downing of a Ukrainian Airlines flight near Tehran the same month, the official said.
No U.S. troops were killed in the attacks in Iraq but more than 100 were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Both Iranian and U.S. officials have said the shooting down of the Ukrainian civilian plane was an error.
Iranian state TV reported that the Revolutionary Guards launched Iran’s first military satellite on Tuesday. It said the satellite named “Noor” had reached orbit.
The space shot was from “a rapid deployment, mobile launch system, which is inconsistent with any civilian application,” the administration official said.
“This was a space launch conducted by the Iranian military for military purposes,” the official said.
With tensions running high between the two countries, Trump said on Wednesday he had instructed the U.S. Navy to fire on any Iranian ships that harass it at sea.
Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell