Iran to violate nuke deal again, sets fourth deadline for November

Statements by both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif indicated that Tehran would start using more of its advanced centrifuges in violation of the deal.

September 5, 2019 20:14
4 minute read.
A view shows railway packages for containers with uranium hexafluoride salt, raw material for nuclea

A view shows railway packages for containers with uranium hexafluoride salt, raw material for nuclear reactors, similar to the one be used for the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank. (photo credit: SHAMIL ZHUMATOV / REUTERS)

Iran said on Thursday it would violate the 2015 nuclear deal for the third time in four months, and set a new November deadline for additional potential violations if a French compromise does not materialize.

There were unclear messages about whether the confirmation of the specific violations would be made public Friday or Saturday, but they are expected in the coming days.

On Wednesday, statements by both Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif indicated that Tehran would start using more of its advanced centrifuges in violation of the deal.

To date, the International Atomic Energy Agency had already reported that the Islamic republic was using 33 advanced centrifuges, which violates the deal’s limit.

However, Iran did not announce that it would start enriching uranium to the 20% level, which could accelerate its breakout time to a nuclear bomb much more drastically.

Zarif, in a speech in Bahrain, and Rouhani in a televised address, said that the purpose of the new November deadline was to give European powers two more months to try to save the multilateral nuclear deal.

Also, on Thursday, Al Jazeera released a video purportedly of a tour of the inside of the Tehran Nuclear Research Center which has a decades old 5-megawatt nuclear reactor.

Al Jazeera's report said that the reactor would eventually need 20% enriched uranium in order to continue to function for providing certainmedical benefits.

The video did not say that Iran would start enriching uranium to 20% in this round of violations, but former deputy chief of IDF intelligence Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser told the Jerusalem Post that this could be Iran laying the ground work for committing that violation of the nuclear deal in November.
Separately, the United States refused to ease its economic sanctions on Iran; imposed fresh ones designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil; and rebuffed, but did not rule out, the French plan to give Tehran a $15 billion credit line.

The moves suggested that Iran, the United States and the major European powers may be leaving the door open for diplomacy to try resolve a dispute over Iran's nuclear program, even as they largely stuck to entrenched positions.

Trump again said he was open to the possibility of meeting Rouhani, but made clear he had no intention of easing sanctions.

"That's not happening," he said. "That won't be happening."

In a televised address, Rouhani said that on Friday that Iran will begin developing centrifuges to speed up the enrichment of uranium – which can produce fuel for power plants or for atomic bombs – as the next step in reducing its nuclear commitments.

Under the accord, Iran was allowed to keep restricted quantities of the first-generation centrifuge IR-1 at two nuclear plants. The successful development of more advanced centrifuges – the IR-4, IR-6 and IR-8 – would enable it to produce limited amounts of material for a potential nuclear bomb at a faster speed.

"From Friday, we will witness research and development on different kinds of centrifuges and new centrifuges, and also whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way," Rouhani said. "All limitations on our Research and Development will be lifted on Friday."

At the same time, Iran does not have a sufficient number of advanced centrifuges that it can even activate to bring it significantly closer to a nuclear bomb.

ROUHANI HAD threatened to take further measures by Thursday unless France and the other European signatories of the pact did more to protect Iran from the impact of US penalties, which have drastically reduced Iran's foreign oil sales.

"It is unlikely that we will reach a result with Europe by today or tomorrow... Europe will have another two months to fulfill its commitments," he said, according to state TV.

But Rouhani also said that Iran's new measures will be "peaceful, under surveillance of the UN nuclear watchdog and reversible" – if European powers keep their promises.

A French diplomatic source voiced regret at Iran's planned centrifuge development.

"It's not helpful," said the source. "We knew it wouldn't be... a bed of roses," he said, adding France would keep looking for a solution despite the cool US reception.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, appeared to give a guarded welcome to a French proposal to save the pact by offering Iran about $15 billion in credit lines until the end of the year if Tehran returned to full compliance.

The United States was cool to the idea but did not categorically reject it.

"We did sanctions today,” Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told reporters. “There will be more sanctions coming. We can't make it any clearer that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure, and we are not looking to grant any exceptions or waivers.”

Washington on Wednesday blacklisted what it called an "oil for terror" network of firms, ships and people it suspects are directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The United States also issued a new international shipping advisory about the IRGC's use of "deceptive practices" to violate US sanctions and warned that those who do business with blacklisted entities may suffer from US sanctions.

Washington also offered a reward of up to $15 million for information that disrupts the IRGC's financial operations and its elite paramilitary and espionage arm, the Quds Force.

The steps intensified the US campaign to eliminate Iran's oil exports as a way to pressure it to restrict its nuclear and missile programs, as well as its support for regional proxies.

In a possible olive branch to the West, Sweden said Iran had released seven of the 23 crew members of the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero that was seized earlier this summer.

The IRGC detained the Swedish-owned Stena Impero on July 19 in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

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