President Donald Trump told reporters Friday he had an ‘absolute right’ to release a high-resolution image of a failed Iranian rocket launch, after he needled Iran on Twitter by putting out a photo of it.
‘I just wish Iran well. They had a big problem, and we had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,’ Trump told reporters as he left the White House for Camp David.
His comment appeared to acknowledge that the image he tweeted while jeering Iran over the failure was an image produced by the government. CNBC on Friday reported that a Defense official said the image shared by Trump appeared to be a picture of a physical image provide as part of a Friday intelligence briefing.
It was a highly precise aerial shot that labeled parts of the launch site where an Iranian rocket exploded before a schedule satellite launch.
‘I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One,’ President Trump tweeted after an Iranian rocket launch failure
‘They had a big mishap, which is unfortunate,’ Trump said. ‘As you know they were going to set off a big missile and it didn’t turn out too well. Had nothing to do with us,’ he said.
Experts told CNBC that the image Trump put out was not meant to be made public. The president has the authority to declassify documents, although he has hammered rivals like former FBI Director James Comey for putting out government information as ‘leakers.’
Earlier Friday, Trump appeared to tweak rival Iran by saying the U.S. ‘was not involved’ in the catastrophic accident.
The U.S. has previously warned Iran not to undertake activities, concerned that even domestic-related activities such as launching a satellite into orbit could mask ambitions to improve Iran’s ballistic missile program.
‘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,’ Trump Tweeted Friday afternoon, using precise language to convey the nation’s familiarity with what Iran was pursuing.
‘I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One,’ Trump wrote.
His tweet followed reporting about the explosion at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran.
‘It was due to some technical issues and it exploded but our young scientists are working to fix the problem,’ an Iranian official told Reuters, without elaborating. A U.S. official confirmed the launch failure to the outlet.
A satellite photo produced by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies shows a black plume of smoke rising from the launch site before Thursday’s scheduled launch.
It was Iran’s third launch failure this year.
President Trump tweeted an image of the Iranian launch failure
A handout satellite photo made available by MAXAR Technologies on 30 August 2019, showing a satellite image made by Maxar’s WorldView-2 satellite of the failed Iranian rocket launch at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in northern Iran. Smoke and debris on and near the launch pad can be seen along with numerous support and maintenance vehicles nearby
This Aug. 9, 2019, satellite image from Planet Labs Inc., that has been annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, shows activity at the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran’s Semnan province prior to the failure
This file photo taken on August 26, 2006 shows a general view of a heavy water plant in Arak, 320 kms southwest of the Iranian capital Tehran. Iran will begin enriching uranium beyond a 3.67 percent cap set by a landmark nuclear deal “in a few hours”, the Islamic republic’s atomic energy organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on July 7, 2019
‘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,’ President Trump Tweeted Friday
Dave Schmerler of the Middlebury institute told NPR on Thursday: ‘This look likes the space launch vehicle blew up on the launch pad.’ He said the failure ‘happened maybe a couple of minutes before the image was taken.’
Trump’s comment came a day after he held a White House event to kick off his ‘Space Force’ as a new branch of the military.
Trump made ending the Iran nuclear deal one of his top priorities as president, and withdrew the U.S. from the agreement, kicking off new tensions with Iran.
Trump’s denial of involvement in the accident references prior interventions in the country.
The U.S. is believed to have orchestrated a cyber attack along with Israel in 2005 that relied on a computer virus to damage Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian politicians sometimes bring up the CIA-backed a 1953 coup in Iran, which prompted lingering suspicions about the U.S. in Tehran. U.S.-Iranian relations were severely strained after the 1979 revolution and the taking of American hostages.