April 22 (UPI) -- Iran successfully launched its first military satellite into space on Wednesday, authorities in Tehran said, spurring warnings from Washington and heightening tensions between the two countries.
Communication minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi called the satellite launch a "great national achievement," and said he visited the development of both the solid-propellant launcher and the satellite.
Tehran has not detailed the satellite or its capabilities.
Following the launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran "needs to be held accountable for what they've done."
The Middle Eastern nation has long claimed such launches were in the name of commercial interests, but this launch by the elite arm of the Iranian military, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is proof that is not the case, he told reporters during a press availability in Washington, D.C.
"The IRGC, a designated terrorist organization, launched a missile today. And I'll leave it to the Department of Defense to talk about the details about that," he said.
The launch occurred as the United States has been criticized for maintaining sanctions against Tehran despite its arguments that the diplomatic pressure is preventing it from receiving medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic -- accusations the State Department has repeatedly denied saying the sanctions do not affect such materials.
In late March, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged governments to re-evaluate broad sectoral sanctions imposed against countries fighting COVID-19 outbreaks, including Iran.
Pompeo on Wednesday said the Iranian regime should prioritize its resources on its people instead of using them to continue "their global terror campaign."
President Donald Trump also tweeted on Wednesday that he has instructed the U.S. Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea."
Last week, 11 IRGC navy boats disrupted five U.S. naval vessels conducting a routine exercise with repeated high-speed "harassing approaches" coming as close as 10 yards to the American vessels, the State Department said in a statement.
Senior defense officials said during a press briefing later Wednesday that while Trump's comment is not a change in policy concerning rules of engagement, it is a warning Iran should take seriously.
"He's providing a warning: If you want to come down that path, we will come and we will come large, so don't come down that path," said U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten.