100% sure about 20% enrichment

January 3, 2021 - 20:54

TEHRAN – In the latest sign that time is running out for the West to save the Iran nuclear deal, the UN nuclear watchdog has formally announced that it is informed by Tehran that Iran has decided to start enriching uranium to 20%, a major development that could spell the end of a deal that has long been on life support.

Following the leakage of an Iranian letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) outlining Iran’s intention to resume 20% uranium enrichment, the UN nuclear body put out a statement confirming that Iran has actually informed it of its decision to substantially raise the level of uranium enrichment up to 20 percent, which is well beyond the 3.67% purity limit set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran has informed the Agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant,” the IAEA statement said.

Iran has confirmed that it intends to increase its nuclear activities, saying it will raise the level of uranium enrichment “as soon as possible.”

“We have sent a letter to the representative of the Islamic Republic to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to submit it to the Agency. This letter was submitted to the Agency on Friday, informing it that we want to start 20% enrichment in accordance with the parliament law,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said in a televised interview on Friday.

The Iranian nuclear official has used a slightly different tone of voice to describe the prevailing political zeitgeist in Tehran.

“God willing, we will start enriching [uranium] up to 20% soon. The president should issue an order. Of course, the president has already issued a preliminary order according to which we sent a letter to the Agency and made the announcement. We are just like a soldier having his hand on the trigger, waiting for the commander to issue an order to open fire. We are ready to do this and God willing, we will do it as soon as possible,” he thundered.

The Iranian decision to speed up nuclear activities was taken in line with a recent law passed by the Iranian Parliament, which pushes the government of Hassan Rouhani into speeding up the nuclear activities in a few months if the Western parties to the JCPOA, especially the Europeans, failed to lift sanctions on Iran.

The nuclear law, officially called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect Nation’s Rights,” outlines a step-by-step strategy for Iran to force the West into reconsidering its sanctions policy against Iran by increasing nuclear activities. It stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in few months if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the JCPOA.

The law, which was passed in early November, is an indication that Iran is getting really fed up with the Europeans’ procrastination. Because the European signatories to the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK (E3) – have been encouraging Iran to remain committed to the nuclear deal while refraining from ensuring Iran’s interests envisioned in the deal. The Europeans have been expressing regret over the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, saying all the time that the U.S. should have not abandoned the deal. They made efforts to keep the deal alive and waited out Trump, pretending that the revival of the nuclear deal would be feasible under a Biden administration. They might have even cajoled the Rouhani government into believing that they would revive the nuclear deal in its original version if a Democrat is elected president.

But after Biden won the U.S. presidential election in November, the Europeans quickly showed their true colors by calling for a “nuclear agreement plus” with Iran and throwing away a deal they have been “tirelessly” pretending to save.

Iran is fully aware of the European plots and that is why it has issued an ultimatum to the West that if they don’t change course on Iran, it will move forward with its plans to resume its nuclear program.

The Europeans and the Biden team have surely received the Iranian warning. As of this writing, there has been no response by the Europeans and Americans to Iran’s letter to the IAEA. It remains to be seen whether they will change tack on Iran. But this time Iran is pretty serious about its threats to resume its nuclear program. Therefore, the Westerners need to quickly move to resolve their differences with Iran before it’s too late.

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