Early Monday morning, Iran announced that it plans to break the uranium stockpile limit set by the JCPOA nuclear deal with China France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom (the United States having withdrawn from the agreement in 2018).
“Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started, and in 10 days’ time [June 27] we will pass this limit,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. “This is based on the Articles 26 and 36 of the (nuclear deal), and will be reversed once other parties live up to their commitments.”
Article 26 says there will be no re-imposition of sanctions, by the EU or the United States. Article 36 explains the ways in which a country can break the agreement.
Kamalvandi also warned that Iran could enrich uranium up to 20 percent. Although not weapons-grade, 20 percent purity is generally considered “highly enriched” uranium. 90% is considered weapons grade, but it’s easier to go from 20% to 90% than from 0 to 20. So this announcement moves Iran closer to nuclear weapons.
Last month, Iran scaled back some commitments under the deal and warned that in 60 days it would resume refining uranium to a higher degree if Europe failed to shield its trade from US sanctions.
President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would stop observing restrictions on its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water agreed under the nuclear deal. Tehran has said it may go even further by July 8 unless the remaining partners to the deal circumvent US sanctions — and, especially, enable it to sell oil.
There is evidence that Iran has already broken other provisions in the agreement. New satellite images of Iran’s Fordo Nuclear Facility released in 2018 show that Iran has opened the gates and added new construction to its nuclear weapons plant. Fordo is dug deep into a mountain and thought to be resistant to air strikes. There is no reason to expand the site unless Iran has a bomb-making program.
A May 31, 2019 paper released by the Institute for Science and International Security explained that the “International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest safeguards report on the verification and monitoring of the JCPOA. The report discusses one potential violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in footnote 27, which states, “up to 33 IR-6 centrifuges have been installed, of which up to 10 have been tested with UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, which is a chemical form of uranium that is used during the uranium enrichment process). This number of deployed centrifuges is far in excess of what is a reasonable interpretation of the deployment rate implied in Iran’s long-term enrichment plan.”
Keep in mind that while the IAEA may be allowed to count the number and kinds of centrifuges, because of a secret side deal revealed by the Associated Press long before the deal was agreed to, Iran gets to self-inspect the Parchin military base with no IAEA inspectors present. All other military base inspections are allowed under the JCPOA. However, Iran has stated more than once they will not allow inspections of military sites, which has restricted IAEA from completing its inspection tasks.
In early June 2019, German intelligence issued a report claiming that Iran was illegally purchasing technology necessary for building delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction.
These threats of increased uranium are just the latest actions to ramp up tensions made by the rogue regime. Per Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “This is only the latest in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests, and they should be understood in the context of 40 years of unprovoked aggression against freedom-loving nations.
“On May 12th, Iran attacked four commercial ships near the Strait of Hormuz. On May 14th, Iran-backed surrogates attacked by armed drones struck two strategically important oil pipelines into Saudi Arabia. On May 19th, a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. On May 31st, a car bomb in Afghanistan wounded four U.S. service members, killed four Afghan civilians, and wounded bystanders. Yesterday [June 12], Iranian surrogates fired a missile into Saudi Arabia, striking the arrivals terminal of an international airport, injuring 26 people.”
And on June 13th, Iran attacked two Japanese oil tankers just outside Iranian waters.
Pulling out of the flawed deal was an excellent foreign policy move by the president. As explained many times in this space, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry were not honest about many of the deal’s provisions. The JCPOA tied the hands of the United States more than it did Iran. When certain provisions of the agreement expire six years from today, in 2025 Iran will be free to produce nuclear weapons, and by all indications they will need only a few months to make the jump. The announcement by Kamalvandi will shorten that even further.
By re-imposing sanctions, President Trump has squeezed the regime’s wealth. If they want to spend money on Islamist terror groups such as Hezbollah, they won’t have the funds to stabilize their economy.
Iran has a choice: give up on building atomic weapons and funding terrorism, or have a viable economy. It seems they’ve chosen the former, and the Iranian people are getting restless.