The launch of Iran's first military satellite into orbit on Wednesday (April 22) calls into question Tehran's priorities as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic rages throughout the country.
"Today, we are looking at the Earth from the sky, and it is the beginning of the formation of a world power," Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said according to Fars News Agency.
The IRGC said the satellite -- dubbed "Nour" -- had been launched from the Qassed two-stage launcher from the Markazi desert, a vast expanse in Iran's central plateau.
It appears to be the first time Iran has used a launcher of this type.
The surprise operation comes more than two months after Iran launched but failed to put into orbit another satellite that it said had no military dimensions.
The satellite launch reflects Tehran's true priorities, as the regime prefers to spend money on trying to demonstrate its military prowess rather than helping citizens fight the coronavirus outbreak.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of violating a UN Security Council resolution and pointed out the regime's hypocrisy in requesting a $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund to battle the virus.
"I hope that the Iranian regime will respond to the Iranian people’s demands to prioritise resources, resources that the Iranian regime clearly has, to the health and security and safety of the Iranian people, rather than continuing their global terror campaign," he told reporters in Washington.
The satellite launch proves that Iran's space programme is intended for military rather than commercial purposes, Pompeo said.
"Iran needs to be held accountable for what they've done."
Washington has raised concerns in the past about Tehran's satellite programme, saying the launch of a carrier rocket in January 2019 amounted to a violation of limits on its ballistic missiles.
Iran maintains it has no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, and says its aerospace activities are peaceful.
Conspiracies and lies
But the decision to launch the satellite while the coronavirus ravages the country and exacerbates an already spiralling economic crisis, highlights Iran's bungled response to the virus since announcing the first case of the disease in February.
Despite having one of the worst outbreaks in the world, the regime has not enforced isolation measures as most other countries have, resulting in surging cases of the disease and mounting deaths.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced 1,030 new cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday, taking the country's total to 87,026. The overall death toll is 5,481.
At the same time, international concern has been growing over Tehran's lack of transparency in delivering accurate information to the public as the uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak in the country spreads to neighbouring countries and beyond.
In addition, Iran, like China and Russia, has been actively spreading conspiracy theories about the virus, further putting lives at risk by putting out false or misleading information.