Donald Trump has said he had “the absolute right” to tweet a photo of what appeared to be the site of a failed Iranian satellite launch, prompting questions over whether the president had disclosed US surveillance secrets.
The high resolution satellite image appears to show the aftermath of a rocket having exploded on the launchpad of Iran’s main space centre.
In his tweet on Friday, Mr Trump cited the specific location of the site, saying the US was not involved in the “catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran”.
He ended his tweet in what appeared to be a sarcastic tone, saying “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One”.
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
Speaking to reporters at the White House later, Mr Trump defended his posting of the photo and reiterated that the US had nothing to do with the incident.
“We had a photo. I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” he 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”.
Asked where he got the photo, Mr Trump told reporters: “You’ll have to figure that one out yourself.”
An Iranian official said a rocket exploded on its launch pad on Thursday, while a US official also said Iran suffered a satellite launch failure.
Patrick Eddington, a former CIA satellite imagery analyst, said the photo tweeted by Mr Trump appeared to be a classified image taken by a US spy satellite.
“If the president simply tweeted out an image from classified briefing that utilises our most advanced overhead collection capabilities, it is no doubt welcome news to our adversaries,” Mr Eddington told Reuters news agency.
“While he has the authority to declassify any federal document, Twitter is not a legitimate or responsible way to do so.”
According to US media reports, the image was posted shortly after Mr Trump was scheduled to receive an intelligence briefing.
The Pentagon did not have any immediate comment.
The US has warned Iran against rocket launches, fearful 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 US accusation that such activity is a cover for ballistic missile development.
The Trump administration has ratcheted up economic pressure on Iran this year with economic sanctions to try to force it to renegotiate a pact reached with world powers in 2015 limiting its nuclear programme.
Mr Trump withdrew the US from the pact in May last year.
Source: SKY NEWS