Tehran hit back on Thursday after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed President Joe Biden’s willingness to return to the Iran nuclear deal but rejected Iranian insistence that the United States to act first.
“Reality check for Blinken. The US violated JCPOA, blocked food/medicine to Iranians, punished adherence to UNSCR 2231,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Throughout that sordid mess, Iran abided by JCPOA, only took foreseen remedial measures. Now, who should take 1st step? Never forget Trump’s maximum failure.”
Since 2019, Tehran has suspended its compliance with most of the limits set by the agreement in response to Washington’s abandonment of the accord and reimposition of sanctions a year earlier, and the failure of other parties to the deal to make up for it. It is now enriching uranium to 20 percent, a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels.
On Thursday, Iranian state TV said Iran had exceeded 17 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium within a month, moving its nuclear program closer to weapons-grade enrichment levels amid the heightened tensions with the US.
Iran has said it would produce 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium per year, or 10 kilograms per month on average, so 17 kilograms would exceed that timetable. Roughly 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium are needed to convert it into 25 kilograms of the 90% enriched needed for a nuclear weapon.
Zarif’s comment came after Blinken said the United States would only return to the nuclear deal once Tehran med its commitments, and warned of a long road until verification.
“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken told a news conference on Wednesday. “We’re not there yet, to say the least.”
“President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing,” Blinken said.
He added that if Iran returns to compliance, the Biden administration would put together a diverse team of experts to build a strategy for how to reach a follow-up deal with Tehran.
Israel, the UAE and Bahrain are all seeking to dissuade the Biden administration from returning to the JCPOA in its original form.
The Biden administration’s policy on Iran is expected to be a point of contention between the new US administration and Israel. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with Blinken on Wednesday, in the highest-level contact yet between Jerusalem and the new American administration.
Israeli officials have voiced strong objections to the US rejoining the nuclear deal, and have also issued threats against Iran in recent weeks.
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi issued a rare public criticism of the US plans on Tuesday and said that he had ordered the military to develop operational plans for striking Iran’s nuclear program.
Tensions in the Middle East have climbed in recent months as Iran and the Trump administration exchanged a steady stream of threats before Trump’s term ended earlier this month, and Iran carried out fresh breaches of the nuclear agreement.
Iran’s aggressive moves were believed to be partially aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of negotiations with Biden.
The Biden administration has pledged to consult with Israel and its other Middle East allies before making decisions regarding Iran.