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Iran threatens to resume enhanced nuclear programme if Trump reneges

Iran's Nuclear Facility [file photo]
Iran's Arak Nuclear Facility [file photo]

Iran is prepared to resume its nuclear programme, and at a technologically “higher position”, if the new US Trump administration “tears up” the nuclear agreement signed in July 2015, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.

Speaking to Canada’s CBC News, Salehi said that Tehran reserves the right to “act appropriately” if Washington reconsiders the so-called P5+1 deal on the Iranian nuclear programme; “We can very easily snap back and go back … not only to where we were, but a much higher position technologically speaking”, he warned.

“I don’t want to see that day. I don’t want to make a decision in that course, but we are prepared”, Iran’s nuclear chief added.

In an interview with Iran’s IRIB News published on Sunday, Salehi noted that it’s too early to evaluate Trump’s stance on Iran. Tehran is gauging the new administration’s behaviour in honouring its commitment to the deal.

The nuclear chief has pointed out that Iran will not initiate a violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but warned that should Washington backtrack on the deal, Tehran will increase uranium enrichment capacity to 100,000 SWU in a year, the Tehran Times reported.

Salehi has said that he watched Trump’s inauguration with the expectation that he would talk about Iran or the nuclear deal; neither was mentioned during the speech, which he viewed as “positive. He has also dismissed the new US administration’s intention to develop a “state of the art” missile defence system to stave off attacks from North Korea and Iran, which was announced last Friday on the White House website within minutes of the inauguration.

“The United States — it’s more than 10,000 miles [16,000 kilometres] away from Iran, and we have never intended to manufacture missiles that would go that far”, he said.

Last week, Trump has called the deal the worst ever made and, during his campaign, he promised to tear it up, echoing critics who believe that Iran cannot be trusted. During the inauguration he was vague about his plans, but insisted the deal was still “one of the dumbest” he’d ever seen.

The unprecedented agreement in 2015 brought together Iran with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in a rare show of international consensus, agreeing to reduce the number of their centrifuges by two-thirds. Under the deal, governed by the JCPOA, Tehran also agreed to cap its uranium enrichment below the level needed for bomb-grade material.

In his last days of presidency, the former US president Barack Obama insisted the deal brought “significant, concrete results in making the United States and the world a safer place”. Despite the breakthrough being hailed by Obama as a way to halt Iran’s alleged drive to develop nuclear weapons – an accusation which Tehran consistently denies – Trump previously called the agreement a “disaster”.

During his campaign trail, the new president told an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in May that dismantling the deal was top of his agenda.

On a similar note, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reiterated that Washington could not unilaterally cancel the nuclear deal.

Earlier last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would retaliate if Trump takes action against JCPOA. “We will surprise him the same way he likes to surprise the others”, he warned.

Zarif noted that there had been no communication between Iran and Trump’s transition team.

In a pre-election interview with The Algemeiner in early November, senior Trump adviser David Friedman — who has since been picked to serve as the next US ambassador to Israel — said a Trump administration would “reengage with the world powers in a way that seeks to reintroduce leverage on Iran”.

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