Have Iran violations brought it closer to a nuke? - analysis

US President Donald Trump seems to see no rush to bring things to a conclusion.

By
June 28, 2019 03:46
2 minute read.
Have Iran violations brought it closer to a nuke? - analysis

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks live on television after casting his ballot in the Iranian presidential election in Tehran June 12, 2009. (photo credit: REUTERS/CAREN FIROUZ)

There have been more than a dozen “major” developments in the US-Iran nuclear standoff in recent weeks, but none of them have significantly moved either party closer to a deal or to a nuclear breakout.

While Iran had billed June 27 as another potential major turning point, the date passed in the end with a dud.

Iran had vowed that on June 27 it would pass its 300-kilogram enriched uranium threshold limit from the 2015 nuclear deal.

It didn’t.

It seems that the Islamic Republic is waiting for the EU to roll out some economic rewards or concessions to it on Friday and on an ongoing basis in the near future. This, despite the fact that everything the EU appears to be offering is help in the low millions, whereas Tehran is in need of help in the high billions to recover from US sanctions.

But the truth is that June 27 was a dud before Iran blinked and even if Iran passes the 300-kilogram limit this weekend or next week, it will remain a dud.

It will not substantially reduce the Islamic Republic’s breakout time for a bomb. In contrast, Iran could have announced it would start enriching uranium to the 20% level, which would have shortened its breakout time to a nuclear bomb.

Tehran could have reduced IAEA access to its nuclear facilities. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could have pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal or out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He did none of those things.

This means he is messaging restraint to the US even as Iran acts increasingly aggressively using military force against US-allied oil tankers and a US drone last week.

So now the next Iran deadline of July 7 approaches.

No one knows exactly what new escalated violation Iran will commit on July 7, but the latest reports in Iranian media are that it will enrich uranium to 3.7%, up from the nuclear deal’s 3.67%. If that is all, it would be another very symbolic violation.

Without jumping to at least the 20% enrichment level as the Islamic Republic did before the 2015 deal, the breakout time to a nuclear bomb will only get reduced on a very incremental basis.

Trump also seems in no rush to bring things to a conclusion. Despite expectations that he would strike Iran in response to Tehran shooting down an expensive US drone, he sufficed with additional sanctions and is now saying “I have time,” and is in no rush to resolve the standoff.

All of this is potentially explosive and could blow up at any moment, but in the meantime, it appears that both sides prefer gradual and calculated escalation to try to reach a deal over brinkmanship.


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