Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani today threatened to resume high-level enrichment of uranium if his country’s interests in the nuclear deal are not protected.
He said that the remaining P5+1 signatories of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal had 60 days to adhere to their own promises to protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from US sanctions.
The comments came during a speech broadcast on Iranian television. Rouhani later clarified his statement with a post on Twitter:
“The EU/E3+2 will face Iran’s further actions if they can not fulfill their obligations within the next 60 days and secure Iran’s interests. Win-Win conditions will be accepted.”
Starting today, Iran does not keep its enriched uranium and produced heavy water limited. The EU/E3+2 will face Iran's further actions if they can not fulfill their obligations within the next 60 days and secure Iran's interests. Win-Win conditions will be accepted.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) May 8, 2019
Last year, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations. The group includes the five permanent UN Security Council members – the US, China, Russia, the UK and France – plus Germany.
Shortly afterwards, Washington re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s energy and banking sectors.
The sanctions have crippled Iran’s economy with levels of inflation rising from 9.7 per cent in May 2018 to 47.4 per cent in May 2019.
According to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Tehran is keeping to its side of the 2015 agreement. The IAEA carries out quarterly inspections at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The JCPOA was created due to fears that Tehran was “months away” from building a nuclear weapon, however, Iran has always maintained that its uranium enrichment was for civilian applications.
The fears were caused by Iran’s “stockpiling” and high-level enrichment of uranium and heavy water (deuterium oxide). With larger quantities of these two components, a country is able to produce a nuclear weapon in a much shorter period of time.
Conditions in the 2015 deal specify that Iran cannot enrich its uranium past 3.67 per cent and must keep its stores at a maximum of 300 kilogrammes and export the remainder to Russia. Storage of hard water is also capped with excesses exported to Oman.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran declares that at the current stage, it does not any more see itself committed to respecting the limitations on keeping enriched uranium and heavy water reserves,” Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) said in a statement carried by the semi-official Fars news agency.
Despite turning back on some aspects of the agreement, Rouhani stressed that he was not planning to take the country out of the deal.
“Today we have shown the flipside of the JCPOA coin,” he said.
“Today we are announcing a reduction of our obligations under the JCPOA. We are not leaving the JCPOA.”