Iran to announce reduced commitment to nuclear deal, may restart enrichment

French diplomat says Europe could reimpose sanctions if Iran pulls out of deal as Tehran hints at retaliatory actions on anniversary of US leaving pact

FILE: Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital Tehran, on April 9, 2007. (Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP)
FILE: Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital Tehran, on April 9, 2007. (Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP)

Iran will announce on Wednesday it is scaling back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, a year after the US decision to unilaterally pull out of the international pact, the official IRNA news agency said.

The announcement came as tensions with the US have been ramping up, and could include Iran restarting enrichment at nuclear facilities where activity was curbed by the 2015 deal.

“In response to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States (…), the Islamic Republic of Iran will announce Wednesday its decision to reduce its commitments under this agreement,” the agency said Tuesday.

IRNA did not specify what commitments Tehran intends to “reduce” but indicated that the Iranian decision will be communicated to the ambassadors of the five partner countries of Iran remaining in the agreement — Germany, China, France, Great Britain and Russia — by the vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi.

A diplomat in Tehran confirmed to AFP that the ambassadors of the five countries were invited to a meeting at the Foreign Ministry with Araghchi on Wednesday, the anniversary of the announcement of the US exit from the agreement, May 8, 2018.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday in Moscow.

A French diplomatic source told Reuters that if Iran withdraws from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, then Europe would reimpose sanctions on the country.

“We do not want Tehran to announce tomorrow actions that would violate the nuclear agreement, because in this case we Europeans would be obliged to reimpose sanctions as per the terms of the agreement. We don’t want that and we hope that the Iranians will not make this decision,” the source said.

The hard-line Javad newspaper, associated with the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, suggested in its Tuesday edition that Iran may install advanced centrifuges at its Natanz facility and begin enrichment at its Fordo facility, activities prohibited under the nuclear deal.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is expected to announce new measures Wednesday, which the newspaper predicted would “ignite the matchstick for burning the deal.”

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May last year but the other five signatories have all agreed to try to keep the pact alive on their own. Trump insists the original agreement did not go far enough in curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and wants to renegotiate the JCPOA with stricter terms.

In the meantime, Washington has imposed heavy sanctions on Iran that could weaken the ability of the remaining parties to maintain the deal.

A satellite image from September 15, 2017, of the Fordo nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

Already high tensions skyrocketed this week as US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Sunday that the United States was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran.

Bolton blamed “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” without elaborating.

Reports have indicated the US feared an attack on its soldiers in the Middle East.

“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said.

A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Keivan Khosravi, dismissed Bolton’s comments as “psychological warfare.”

The USS Abraham Lincoln deploys from Naval Station Norfolk, in the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia, on April 1, 2019. (Kaitlin McKeown/ The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Tehran has in the past warned that if the remaining parties are not able to keep up the trade and financial benefits the deal provided, it will also pull out and restart controversial parts of its nuclear program.

Officials in the Islamic Republic previously warned that Iran might increase its uranium enrichment, potentially pulling away from a deal it has sought to salvage for months.

The UNs’ nuclear watchdog says Iran has continued to comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. But US sanctions have wreaked havoc on Iran’s already-anemic economy, while promised help from European partners in the deal haven’t alleviated the pain.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said in February that Tehran has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20-percent uranium enrichment. Restarting enrichment at that level would mean Iran had withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear deal.


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