Iran on Wednesday issued a threat to European nations scrambling to try to appease it that — without a deal to avert the impact of President Donald Trump’s sanctions — it will take steps beginning Sunday that could bring it closer to having a nuclear weapon.
The 2015 nuclear agreement developed by former President Barack Obama ended sanctions against Iran in exchange for it agreeing to drop any effort to develop a nuclear weapon during the deal’s 10-year span. It was signed by China, Russia and three European nations — Britain, Germany and France — signed it.
Ever since Trump renounced the deal in May 2018, the three European nations have worked to try to persuade Iran to abide by its terms. However, the Trump administration, in response to Iranian aggression and actions such as the recent attacks against shipping in the Gulf of Oman, has piled sanctions on Iran.
In that context, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that if the European nations do not find a way to create a deal agreeable to Iran to avoid the sanctions’ impact, it will break the level of uranium enrichment allowed by the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Rouhani said Iran will enrich uranium “in any amount that we want, any amount that is required, we will take over 3.67.”
“Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table. Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal,” he said, according to Fox News.
Rouhani’s comments came days after Iran broke the JCPOA’s limit on how much uranium it could stockpile. Although that does not put Iran within imminent reach of having a bomb — the more uranium it has, and the more it enriches it to develop weapons-grade uranium — the closer it gets. Under the nuclear deal, the level of enrichment could pass 3.67 percent. Nuclear weapons require 90 percent enrichment. However, experts have said that once Iran gets to the 20 percent level, its likely next step and one it has achieved in the past, it becomes a comparatively small step to reach 90 percent.
One expert warned against pushing the panic button.
“What does it mean that Iran has technically breached one of the limits of the historic anti-nuclear deal? It is not a sprint to a bomb. They are a long way away,” Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, tweeted.
What does it mean that Iran has techinically breeched one of the limits of the historic anti-nuclear deal? It is not a sprint to a bomb. They are a long way away. This is more message than threat. Let me explain with just a few facts. 1/
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) July 1, 2019
Iran’s action drew a tweet of condemnation from Trump.
“Iran was violating the 150 Billion Dollar (plus 1.8 Billion Dollar in CASH) Nuclear Deal with the United States, and others who paid NOTHING, long before I became President – and they have now breached their stockpile limit. Not good!” he tweeted.
Iran was violating the 150 Billion Dollar (plus 1.8 Billion Dollar in CASH) Nuclear Deal with the United States, and others who paid NOTHING, long before I became President – and they have now breached their stockpile limit. Not good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019
Rouhani said the U.S. is charting a contradictory course by saying the deal was bad and then expecting Iran to live by its terms.
“It’s interesting that until today, the U.S. was referring to the JCPOA as a bad agreement, but now that Iran has decided to distance itself from this ‘bad agreement,’ their shouts and cries are spread all over the world,” Rouhani said, according to The Washington Post.
The JCPOA “is either good or bad,” he said. “If it’s good, everyone should comply with their commitments. Comparing your level of commitment to ours, how do you even allow yourselves to object?”
To date, European nations have proposed a trading system that protects their companies from any impact of the sanctions, which the Trump administration has said may ultimately include any country buying Iranian oil.
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