Nuclear Deal: Iran Steps Up Uranium Enrichment

(FILES) A file photo taken on October 26, 2010 shows the inside of reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran HAMED MALEKPOUR / FARS NEWS AGENCY / AFP


Iran confirmed Tuesday it is now enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, well beyond the threshold set by its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, sparking international concern. 

The move at its underground Fordow facility was confirmed by UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It was the most striking suspension yet of Iranian commitments under the landmark deal, a process it started in 2019 in response to US President Donald Trump’s dramatic withdrawal from the accord the previous year.

“At around 7 pm (1530 GMT Monday), we reached 20 percent” enrichment, spokesman Behrouz Kamalavandi told state television in an interview aired on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Iran Warns Trump Against ‘Adventurism’

Announcing the move on Monday, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said President Hassan Rouhani had ordered the enrichment “in recent days” in line with a law passed last month by the conservative-dominated parliament.

The law “for the lifting of sanctions and protection of the Iranian people’s interests” mandates Rouhani’s government to “produce and store 120 kilogrammes (265 pounds) per year of uranium enriched to 20 percent.”

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that “we resumed 20% enrichment as legislated by our parliament,” adding that the IAEA had been “duly notified”.

He stressed that Tehran took the step “after years of non-compliance” by other parties and that “our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL”.

The step comes less than three weeks before the end of the presidency of Trump, who has sought to economically punish and diplomatically isolate Iran with a “maximum pressure” campaign, including tough sanctions.

The outgoing administration deplored Iran’s plan to step up uranium enrichment.

“Iran enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow is a clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion, an attempt that will continue to fail,” a State Department spokesperson said.

The Iranian government has signalled a readiness to engage with President-elect Joe Biden, who has expressed willingness to return to diplomacy with Tehran and takes office on January 20.

Iran’s return to enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity has triggered international concern because it is seen as a significant step towards the 90 percent level required for a nuclear weapon.

Israel warning

The IAEA confirmed that “Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 percent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 percent”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily and charged it proved Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb — a claim the Islamic republic has always denied.

“Iran’s decision to continue violating its commitments, to raise the enrichment level and advance the industrial ability to enrich uranium underground, cannot be explained in any way except as the continued realisation of its intention to develop a military nuclear programme,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.”

The European Union said Iran’s enrichment programme would be a “considerable departure” from the deal.

Russia’s envoy to the IAEA said that Moscow is “not enthusiastic” about Tehran’s move but emphasised that “there is nothing to overdramatise”.

“The nuclear programme remains fully transparent and verifiable,” Mikhail Ulyanov wrote on Twitter. “We should focus on means to restore comprehensive implementation of the nuclear deal.”

Bound by law

Iran had on December 31 informed the IAEA that it would begin producing uranium enriched to up to 20 percent, the level it had before the nuclear deal was reached.

According to the latest IAEA report available, published in November, Tehran was previously enriching uranium to levels greater than the limit provided for in the 2015 Vienna agreement (3.67 percent) but not exceeding the 4.5 percent threshold, and still complied with the agency’s strict inspection regime.

But there has been turmoil since the assassination in late November of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

In the aftermath of the attack, blamed on Israel, hardliners in Tehran pledged a response and the conservative-dominated parliament passed the new law.

Rouhani had opposed the legislation, describing it as “detrimental to the course of diplomatic activities.”

Quoted by the government’s website, Rabiei said that the administration’s stance towards the law is clear, “but the government considers itself bound to carry out the law”.



Saudi Arabia ‘Supports’ Trump’s Decision On Iran Nuclear Deal

This file photo taken on March 14, 2017, shows US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman shaking hands in the State Dining Room before lunch at the White House in Washington, DC.  NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP


Saudi Arabia, regional rival of Iran and longtime United States ally, said it “supports and welcomes” President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“The kingdom supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US president towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal … and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran,” the foreign ministry said.

Trump on Tuesday announced the US withdrawal from the “defective” multinational nuclear deal with Iran, as Washington moved to reinstate punishing sanctions against the Islamic republic.

After consulting with US “friends” across the Middle East, Trump said his country would “not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail”.

Following his address, the US leader signed a presidential memorandum to start reinstating US nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “taking advantage of the revenue generated by the lifting of the sanctions to destabilise the region”, the foreign ministry said.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom is locked in multiple proxy wars with its Shiite rival in the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.


Trump’s Iran decision Is ‘Misguided’, Says Obama

Trump's Repeal Of Migrant Amnesty 'Cruel' – Obama
Former US President Barack Obama.  File Photo: SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP


Former US president Barack Obama made a rare public criticism of his successor Tuesday, describing Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”

“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working,” Obama said in a statement, referring to the deal his administration brokered in 2015. “That is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current US secretary of defense.”

“That is why today’s announcement is so misguided,” he added. “I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake.”

UN Calls On Other Signatories To Stand By Iran Nuclear Deal

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to stick to their commitments after President Donald Trump announced the United States’ exit from the accord.

“I call on other JCPOA participants to abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA and on all other member-states to support this agreement,” Guterres said in a statement, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.

The deal reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – imposed curbs to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said Tuesday the agreement was “defective” as he announced the US withdrawal and a decision to re-impose sanctions.

Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the US decision to pull out of the agreement that he again described as a “major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy”.

The agreement has “contributed to regional and international peace and security,” he said.

France, Britain and Germany said they remained committed to the deal and vowed to work on a broader accord with Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he would discuss the future of the agreement reached in 2015 with the Europeans, Russia and China.

The agreement was endorsed in a resolution adopted by the Security Council.


Trump Announces US Withdrawal From ‘Defective’ Iran Deal


President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced the US withdrawal from the “defective” multinational nuclear deal with Iran, as Washington moved to reinstate punishing sanctions against the Islamic republic.

“The Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House. “I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

After consulting US “friends” from across the Middle East, Trump said, “it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.”

“America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” Trump vowed.

“We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.”

Following his address, the US leader signed a presidential memorandum to start reinstating US nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Trump said. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters after Trump’s speech that the US sanctions would apply to new contracts “immediately,” and that foreign firms would have months to wind down existing operations in Iran.

Describing Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, and decrying its influence in the Middle East, Trump said the United States intended to work with its allies to “find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Such a solution, he said, would include efforts to eliminate the threat from Iran’s ballistic missile program, stop its “terrorist activities” worldwide, and block its “menacing” activity across the region.

In the meantime, Trump warned, “if the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had.”

Trump had long pledged to tear up the “very badly negotiated” agreement — which his predecessor Barack Obama agreed with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — daring Tehran’s regime to restart its enrichment program and alleged quest for a nuclear weapon.

The US leader had until May 12 to decide whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran’s central bank and its oil sector dealings, a key pillar of the 2015 agreement.

For months, critics have warned that ending the waivers would unravel the carefully constructed deal, plunge Iran’s already struggling economy into crisis and expose the biggest transatlantic rift since the Iraq War.

Hollande Slams Trump’s ‘Double Fault’ Over Iran Nuclear Deal

former French president Francois Hollande. Photo: Handout / Maeil Business Newspaper / AFP

Former French president Francois Hollande on Tuesday slammed Donald Trump’s hardline stance on the Iran nuclear deal — which Paris helped to negotiate — as a “double fault”, warning the US president’s “unpredictability” threatened global stability.

Trump’s threat to ditch the landmark 2015 agreement, which saw Tehran dramatically scale back its nuclear ambitions in return for an end to punishing sanctions, has sparked a chorus of foreign support for the pact.

“Donald Trump’s decision not to certify the accord and to demand that Congress strengthen sanctions is, to my eyes, a double fault,” Hollande told a conference in Seoul.

The former leader’s first speech on international affairs since leaving the Elysee in May touched on global issues including climate change, economic protectionism, and populist politics — and laid into the “confusion” appearing to emanate from the White House.

Trump has said the agreement was letting Iran off the hook but left it up to the US Congress to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.

The former French leader said the US president’s actions showed a “deep misunderstanding of the negotiation’s purpose”, which was to “stop Iran from obtaining weapons, and not to make it change its politics”.

He also accused Trump of “damaging the credibility of any future negotiations with North Korea” with Washington’s about-turns, a concern shared by European Union ministers.

“It has to be shown that agreements will be kept to in the long term,” Hollande said.

The EU said Monday it would send its chief diplomat Federica Mogherini to Washington next month to fight for the nuclear deal.

Hollande said the world “has not been this polarised, in different ways, since 1945”.

“And the role of the United States serves to further complicate the situation, especially if confusion reigns at its top.”

In the face of nuclear proliferation, the world needed “certainty and stability”, he added. “The worst option is unpredictability, which can lead to irrationality.”


Trump Has No Power To Terminate Iran Nuclear Deal – EU Diplomatic Chief

File Photo

The Eurepean Union’s diplomatic Chief Federica Mogherini said Friday that the Iran nuclear deal was “working and delivering” and that US President Donald Trump did not have the power to terminate it.

“We cannot afford as an international community, as Europe for sure, to dismantle an agreement that is working and delivering,” Mogherini said after Trump announced he would not certify the landmark agreement and warned he may yet walk away from it.


US Will Not Re-certify Iran Nuclear Deal – Trump

File Photo of US President Donald Trump. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

President Donald Trump on Friday refused to certify the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and warned the United States may yet walk away from “one of the worst” agreements in history.

“I am announcing that we cannot and will not make this certification,” Trump said in a highly-anticipated address on America’s strategy for containing Tehran.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence and terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.”

The US leader also announced tough new sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, while stopping short of declaring the powerful group a terrorist organization.


Iran Nuclear Deal: US Imposes New Sanctions Over Missiles

Iran-Nuclear-dealThe US has imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals over a recent ballistic missile test.

The new sanctions prevent 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile programme from using the US banking system.

The fresh sanctions came after international nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted as part of a deal hailed by President Barack Obama on Sunday as “smart”.

Four American-Iranians were also freed in a prisoner swap, as part of the deal.

Among them was Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian – whom President Obama described as “courageous”. A fifth American was freed separately.

The US said it had offered clemency to seven Iranians being held in the US for sanctions violations.

According to a BBC report, negotiations over the prisoner exchange delayed the US Treasury’s imposition of the latest sanctions – originally intended to be announced in December.

The fresh sanctions were triggered by Iran conducting a precision-guided ballistic missile test capable of delivering a nuclear warhead last October, violating a United Nations ban.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions,” said Adam J Szubin, US acting under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Moments later, President Obama hailed the nuclear deal, which is being implemented following verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran had restricted its sensitive nuclear activities.

“This is a good day because once again we’re seeing what’s possible with international diplomacy,” Mr Obama said.

“For decades,” he said, “our differences meant our governments hardly ever spoke – ultimately, that did not advance our interests.”

The deal meant “Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb,” he said.

Earlier, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani hailed a “new chapter” in its relations with the world.

But Israel, bristled on Sunday at the lifting of international sanctions on Iran, vowed to flag up any violations of its arch-foe’s nuclear restrictions while drawing on U.S. defence aid to prepare for a possible military face-off in the future.


Iran Nuclear Deal: A Decision Requiring Cautious Diplomacy

Dr. Femi AdegbuluIran may have been able to secure an interim nuclear negotiation deal necessary to ease economic tensions caused by sanctions imposed on the country by world powers, but scepticism expressed by Israel has been supported with a call on world powers to handle Iran’s agreement to halt nuclear programmes with cautious diplomacy.

In the deal, Iran agreed to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for about $7 billion in sanctions relief, after days of intense talks in Geneva.

The interim deal will last for six months, while a permanent agreement is sought.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the deal, saying it would “help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon”.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said the agreement was a “historic mistake” that had made the world a much more dangerous place.

Iran had called for the annihilation of Israel and the world is apprehensive about the possibility that if Iran is allowed to enrich uranium, it could make a nuclear weapon for such purpose.

However, Obama said the US would remain firm and as well, uphold its commitments to friends and allies, particularly Israel and its gulf partners who have got reasons to be sceptical about Iran’s intentions.

“Ultimately only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear programme.

“As president and commander in chief I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from maintaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Despite this assurance by Obama, an Associate Professor of International Relations with the Redeemers University in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Femi Adegbulu, told Channels Television on Monday that the world powers need to be mindful of the fact that Iran could be looking for ways to get itself out of its economic issues.

“They need to be cautious of that fact and be diplomatic in handling the deal.

“They should not be in a hurry to embrace Iran. The world should be cautious in trusting the new president,” he said.

According to the agreement, Iran has been committed to halting enrichment above five per cent and neutralising its stock power of near 20 per cent uranium by means of dilution or conversion.

Iran is also expected to allow inspectors form the International Atomic Energy Agency daily access to its enrichment facilities.