Iran: No more 'deadlines' to save nuclear deal
Iran has begun enriching uranium and has said a third deliberate violation of the 2015 nuclear deal could come. It has called on the other signatories of the deal to find ways around US sanctions.
Iran's Foreign Ministry on Monday gave the other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal a final 60 days to find ways to counter United States sanctions against Tehran or it would implement its third deliberate violation of the accord.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters on Monday that Iran won't offer any further "deadlines" to save the deal, which the US pulled out of last year. The end of the latest 60-day deadline is September 5.
"The West should not criticize the legitimate decisions of Iran, but find practical solutions to convince us to stay in the deal," Mousavi said. "We have no hope nor trust in anyone nor any country but the door of diplomacy is open."
When asked if Tehran would withdraw from the deal entirely, Mousavi said "all the options" were possible but "no decision has been taken."
Read more: Iran violates nuclear deal — what comes next?
Iran has reduced its commitments to the Iran nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, every 60 days to prompt other signatories of the deal to help Iran find ways around US sanctions.
On Sunday, Iran announced its intention to raise enrichment levels beyond the 3.67% threshold agreed under the 2015 agreement.
The announcement came less than a week after Tehran acknowledged that Iran had exceeded a stock limit of 300 kilograms (661 pounds) on its low-enriched uranium production.
Mousavi did not specify what the third deliberate violation of the nuclear deal would be.
The spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, was quoted by the ISNA and Fars news agencies as saying that the country is now enriching uranium to 4.5%.
He separately hinted in a state television interview on Monday that the Middle Eastern nation may consider going to 20% enrichment or higher as its third step based on material needs.
The IAEA confirmed later on Monday that Iran had exceeded the 3.67% threshold but did not specify by how much.
Read more: Rouhani: Iran to enrich uranium to 'any amount' it wants
Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level, as agreed upon in the deal, is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. However, 20% enrichment is a short technical step away from reaching that 90% level.
"Twenty percent is not needed now but, if we want, we will produce it. When we've put aside 3.67% enrichment we have no obstacle or problem with this action," Kamalvandi said.
"There is the 20% option and there are options even higher than that but each in its own place. Today if our country's needs are one thing, we won't pursue something else just to scare the other side a little more."
Kamalvandi said using new or more centrifuges, which are limited by the deal, is also an option for Iran's third step in reducing its nuclear deal commitments.
President Donald Trump announced on May 8, 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, arguing that the international accord was not in America's "national interest." The decision threw a cloud of uncertainty over the future of the nuclear accord and raised tensions with US allies in Europe.
Britain, France and Germany lobbied the Trump administration and Congress to remain in the nuclear accord, arguing that the deal was working and a US violation without a follow up plan would be destabilizing. In European capitals, the Trump administration's withdrawal was viewed as a slap in the face of allies.
A year to the day after Trump's announcement, Iran informed the other signatories of the accord that they would no longer adhere to certain "voluntary commitments." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the signatory nations had 60 days to implement promises to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors or Iran would resume the enrichment of uranium.
The decision came after the United States deployed an aircraft, the USS Lincoln, along with a bomber task force to the Middle East. Washington said the deployment was intended as a "clear unmistakable message." Iran said it took action because the European Union and others "did not have the power to resist US pressure."
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed in 2015 by United States, China, Russia, France, Germany and Britain (P5+1) and Iran following years of negotiations. Under the international agreement, Iran agreed to dismantle its nuclear program and be subject to monitoring in exchange for the lifting of international nuclear related sanctions.
The JCPOA includes a robust monitoring, verification and inspection regime carried out by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The UN watch dog has verified Iran's compliance with the deal in 12 quarterly reports. The JCPOA allows Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program for commercial, medical and industrial purposes in line with international non-proliferation standards.
The Iran nuclear deal was President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy achievement. Seeking to undo nearly every Obama administration legacy, Trump came into office calling it the "worst deal ever." The Trump administration argues the nuclear deal doesn't address other unrelated issues such as Iran's ballistic missiles, regional influence, support for "terrorist" groups and human rights.
The nuclear deal and lifting of punishing nuclear related international sanctions created optimism in Iran after years of economic isolation. However, even before Trump pulled the US out of the deal, Tehran blamed the US for holding back international investment and not fulfilling its end of the bargain due to the uncertainty created by Trump's threats.
After eight years with Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found the US president he wanted in Donald Trump. The Israeli leader repeatedly slammed the deal despite his own military and intelligence chiefs' assessment the that JCPOA, while not perfect, was working and should be maintained. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the other main opponents of the nuclear deal.
The EU-3 (Britain, France, Germany) have scrambled to ensure that Iran receives the economic benefits it was promised in order to avoid Tehran pulling out of the deal. As EU businesses face retaliation from the US for doing business with Iran, many are opting to avoid Iran. This would likely be a present to Chinese and Russian businesses.
Concern in Europe
In response to Iran boosting its uranium enrichment, Germany, one of the five remaining signatories to the deal, said on Monday that Iran must be persuaded to stick to its commitments.
"The ball is clearly in Iran's court. We want to preserve the deal," a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
An European Union spokeswoman said on Monday that the bloc is "extremely concerned" about Iran's decision to breach the enrichment limit, calling on Tehran to "stop and reverse" any actions that go against the nuclear deal.
EU countries have sought to keep the accord alive by developing a money transaction system known as INSTEX that allows Iran to circumvent US sanctions and continue doing business internationally. But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the system because it doesn't include the country's oil sector.
Blame on US
Russia, another signatory, expressed its concerns over the enrichment cap breach. Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov said Monday that Russia "aims to continue dialogue and efforts on the diplomatic front."
Peskov added that Sunday's announcement by Iran was one of the "consequences" of the US abandoning the deal.
China was another signatory to put blame on the US, saying that "unilateral bullying" by the Americans was the cause behind the escalating Iran nuclear crisis.
"The facts show that unilateral bullying has already became a worsening tumor," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing on Monday. "The maximum pressure exerted by the US on Iran is the root cause of the Iranian nuclear crisis."
Following Iran's announcement on Sunday, US President Donald Trump issued a warning towards the country, saying Tehran had "better be careful."
Vice President Mike Pence chimed in later on Monday, warning Tehran that it should not "confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve."
dv/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
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