Iran Announces End Of Restrictions Imposed By Nuclear Deal
In response to the American assassination of a top General, Iran has announced the end of yet more restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal.
In the latest escalation in reaction to the U.S. assassination of Major General Qassim Suleimani, Iran has announced the end of restrictions nuclear research imposed by the Joint Comprehensive Action (JCPOA) the nuclear deal that was negotiated between the Islamic Republic and world powers under the Obama Administration:
When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.
But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.
Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.
Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.
That, at least, appeared to hold open the possibility of a diplomatic off-ramp to the major escalation in hostilities since the United States killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the second most powerful official in Iran and head of the Quds Force.
But some leading experts declared that the effort to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomacy was over. “It’s finished,” David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks nuclear proliferation, said in an interview. “If there’s no limitation on production, then there is no deal.”
Iran’s announcement means that it will no longer observe any limits on the number of centrifuges it can install to enrich uranium or the level to which it enriches it.
Iran did not say if it would resume production at 20 percent, a major leap toward bomb-grade uranium, or beyond. But by allowing inspectors to remain in the country, as the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Tehran would, Iran will have witnesses to its own “maximum pressure” campaign against the West.
The primary American objective in the 2015 agreement was to keep Iran at least a year away from getting enough fuel to fashion a warhead.
Even before Sunday’s announcement, a series of steps by Tehran discarding elements of the agreement had reduced that warning time to a matter of months. The risk now is that uncertainties about how close the Iranians are to their first weapon will grow, and perhaps become fodder for calls in the United States and Israel to take military action.
In essence, Iran is saying it now can produce whatever kind of nuclear fuel it wants, including bomb-grade material.
This isn’t the first announcement that the Iranians have made about surpassing the limitations of the JCPOA over the course of the past year. In May of last year, for example, Iran announced that it had technically surpassed the JCOPOA limits regarding heavy water only to pull back from the brink after getting some concessions from European JCPOA signatories. In two announcements back in July, more than a year after President Trump had announced that the United States was backing out of the agreement notwithstanding the fact that, by all accounts, Iran was complying with its obligations, Iran quietly slipped past two important restrictions. In the first announcement, Tehran announced that it would exceed a key limitation on how much nuclear fuel it can possess. The second announcement, coming just days later, the Islamic Republic announced that it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment,
While significant in that they were the first announcements that Iran was moving beyond the agreement in the wake of the U.S. repudiation and the sanctions that were imposed on the country as a result, experts pointed out that in many respects they were also rather minor and easily reversible. Instead, many experts viewed the moves as efforts on the part of Tehran to goad American allies such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, into attempting to reverse the Trump Administration’s decision or at the very least to decline to join the United States in reimposing sanctions that had been lifted pursuant to the JCPOA. Additionally, notwithstanding the twin announcements in July Iran continued to allow the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to continue to monitor Iranian nuclear research sites as established under the agreement. This will apparently continue even after this latest announcement, something that has led some experts to conclude that Tehran is still acting in a manner that would allow it to slip back into compliance with the JCPOA in the future pending how the United States and Europe respond.
Given the attack we unleashed on Friday, this move isn’t surprising. Making another provocative move under the JCPOA that could easily be reversed is the kind of move that Tehran can make in response to that attack. It’s unlikely to be the only response, though, and American officials are apparently concerned about everything from attacks on American forces and contractors in Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf to attacks on military targets in the area as well as potential cyber attacks on American targets in the Middle East or even in the United States itself. All of this because of the course that the President has set us on seemingly without caring about the consequences.