Iran has a big new rocket. And that could complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to slow down or cancel Iran’s work on nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime announced on Monday that it had tested its Zuljanah space launcher for the first time.

“The test helped Iran make its most powerful rocket engine,” Ahmad Hosseini, spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Tehran, Recount state media.

Zuljanah is an 84-foot three-stage rocket with a solid fuel engine in its first and second stages and a liquid fuel engine in its third stage. The rocket can carry a payload of 500 pounds up to 310 miles, according to the Iranian government.

That’s enough to put a satellite in low earth orbit and, for Iran, a big step forward for both its space program and its efforts to develop vectors for possible future nuclear warheads.

A gasoline engine sold is more flexible and, because it requires less supporting equipment, easier to conceal than a liquid fuel rocket. But it does require precise chemistry, engineering, and manufacturing. “Creating large solid rocket engines is difficult” tweeted Jeffrey Lewis, arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

Rocket in hand, Tehran can now advance both its space program and its nuclear weapons program. Keep in mind that the very first space launcher was a version of Nazi Germany’s very first large front-line ballistic missile, the V-2.

If you curved the Zuljanah’s path, aiming for distance rather than height, you could carry a one-ton warhead up to 3,100 miles, Lewis estimated. An armed Zuljanah could strike targets as far away as China and the UK.

This development adds tension to the already strained relations between the United States and Iran.

The administration of former President Barack Obama negotiated an agreement in 2015 – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – that caps Iran’s nuclear weapons development in exchange for easing economic sanctions.

Then, in 2018, Obama’s successor Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal. Trump’s move was part of a larger attack on Obama’s diplomatic legacy and also reflected deep-rooted opposition within Trump’s Republican Party to any international relationship based on compromise.

As the JCPAO unraveled, Iran resumed work on the basic components of a nuclear warhead. Rockets from Tehran advanced in parallel. If Iran ever finishes its nuclear weapon, it will already have a missile capable of transporting it to much of the world.

It’s up to the Biden administration to put genius back in the bottle. But it’s easier said than done.

President Joe Biden has previously signaled that the United States will join the JCPOA. “We would like to make sure that we restore some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have disappeared over the past two years,” noted Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.

But the 2015 deal only covers warheads, not missiles. To compel Iranian rockets, Biden will have to reduce entirely New OK.

A regional approach involving Iran’s closest neighbors is the wiser, said Kelsey Davenport, a nuclear expert with the Arms Control Association in Washington, DC. [2015] the deal is restored, Biden is expected to pursue a longer-term nuclear framework and support a security dialogue led by states in the region. “

“I think it makes more sense to continue with missile limitations in this latter set of issues because Iranian missiles are a regional threat,” Davenport added. “There are a number of restrictions that could be explored, including limits on range, fuel type or number of launchers.”

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