The image, complete with graphics, was tweeted by the US President on Friday local time.
The image, complete with graphics, was tweeted by the US President on Friday local time.

Trump accidentally tweets secret photo

Experts say Donald Trump was either "careless" or mistaken when he tweeted what is believed to be a classified satellite photograph of an explosion at an Iranian space centre a few hours ago.

The image, which appeared to show the smouldering remains of a rocket at the Imam Khomeini Space Center, was never meant to be shown to the public, they say.

The tweet was a snapshot of a physical copy of a satellite image provided to Mr Trump at an intelligence briefing on Friday, a US defence official told CNBC.

The crystal clear photograph included several notations that pointed out a "damaged gantry service tower", two "damaged support vehicles", a "damaged propellant burner trailer", a "damaged Safir mobile-erector-launcher".

The image, complete with graphics, was tweeted by the US President on Friday local time.
The image, complete with graphics, was tweeted by the US President on Friday local time.

"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.

"I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One," he wrote.

Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network, said she had "never seen an image this sharp".

"I'm not supposed to see stuff this good. He's not supposed to share it," she said.

Defence expert Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said it was a bizarre decision for Trump to tweet the photo, whether it was meant to be confidential or not.

"I think it is extremely unlikely that the U.S. had anything to do with the explosion. And it's a monumentally bad idea to hint that we might have," he said.

But the US President is standing by his decision. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday, he said he had "the absolute right" do share the image on Twitter with his 63.7 million followers.

"We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do," he said.

Asked where the photo came from, Mr Trump responded: "You'll have to figure that one out yourself."

The launch attempt was met by concerns that Tehran had been testing technology that could lead to ballistic missile strikes, though authorities deny this.

It comes as the UN atomic watchdog released a new report detailing how Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium is increasing in violation of limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal.

 

President Donald Trump has defended his “absolute right” to share the photo. Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Donald Trump has defended his “absolute right” to share the photo. Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP

 

In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states and seen by The Associated Press, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran's stockpile still exceeds the amount allowed by the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the US pulled out of under Mr Trump.

It also said Iran continues to enrich uranium up to 4.5 per cent, above the 3.67 per cent allowed.

Enriched uranium at the 3.67 per cent level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent. At the 4.5 per cent level, it is enough to help power Iran's Bushehr reactor, the country's only nuclear power plant.

Tensions between the US and Iran have been rising lately. Mr Trump blames Iran for a number of attacks on freighters travelling through the Strait of Hormuz - through which 20 per cent of the world's oil passes. Iran has denied any involvement.

- with AP