Iran serious about its recent nuclear decisions

January 11, 2021 - 21:38

TEHRAN – Iran has moved “quite rapidly” to raise the level of uranium enrichment to 20% after it informed the UN atomic watchdog of its intention. The move came a few days after Iran submitted a letter in this regard to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is now warning that it will expel the IAEA inspectors in a few weeks if sanctions are not lifted by February.

But will it follow through on its threat?

The answer to this question lies with IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi, who expressed awe at Iran’s swiftness in resuming the 20% uranium enrichment.

Reviving Iran’s nuclear deal must happen within the coming weeks, Grossi said on Monday, according to Reuters, after Tehran resumed 20% uranium enrichment and its parliament threatened to reduce access for inspectors in February.

“It is clear that we don’t have many months ahead of us. We have rather weeks,” he said in an interview for the Reuters Next conference.

The UN nuclear chief raised alarm bells after achieving a firsthand experience in dealing with Iran in recent months; something that made him the most qualified UN official in attesting to the credibility of Iran’s threats. In early January, Iran informed the IAEA of its intention to raise the level of uranium enrichment to 20%. A few days later, Iran followed through on the threat. Grossi was kept in the loop about Iran’s nuclear steps right from the start.

On January 1, Iran’s representative to the IAEA summited a letter to the Agency saying that Iran will soon start the 20% uranium enrichment. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), confirmed the submission of the letter on the same day it was delivered to the IAEA.

“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,” Salehi, a nuclear physicist, said on January 1.

Iran’s nuclear chief also issued a stern threat that a few people thought would be done. He said Iran is going to resume 20% uranium enrichment and Iranian officials have their hand on the trigger.

“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,” Salehi continued.

A few people, Grossi included, thought that Iran would do it in a few days. But Iran did it in less than three days.

On January 4, Iran officially announced that it is resuming the 20% uranium enrichment, a move that caught some pundits and officials by surprise.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing enriched uranium to 20% purity has begun. And the first product of UF6 enriched uranium will be produced in a few hours,” Ali Rabiei, spokesman for Iran’s government, said on January 4.

During the Reuters Next conference, Grossi implied that he was surprised by the pace at which Iran implemented its decision to enrich uranium to up to 20%. He said that Iran has proceeded “quite rapidly” in moving to 20% enrichment, according to a tweet by Laurence Norman, The Wall Street Journal’s Brussels-based correspondent. Norman also quoted Grossi as saying that when he was first informed on Iran's 20% enrichment plan, the IAEA didn’t know if it was an immediate intention or plan but then Iran moved ahead in a couple of days. “We are in a new reality,” the UN nuclear chief cautioned, adding that “the process has started and we have to see each day how much they can produce.”

Grossi also called on the West to take seriously a recent nuclear law passed by the Iranian Parliament stipulating 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 IAEA director-general said he has not yet been informed by Iran on whether they plan to end Additional Protocol access in February as the parliamentary law had said. Grossi also said that he can’t speculate if the Iranian government will implement the law in full but he said the law is a serious issue.

“I must take it seriously because it’s a law and the government seems to be intent in complying,” Grossi pointed out, expressing concerns over the law.

This warning is indicative of how Iran proved to be a country that issues credible threats and sets serious deadlines. Iran’s threat to expel the IAEA inspectors if U.S. sanctions are not lifted by February 21 is one of these deadlines that, according to Norman, “is the gravest threat to what remains of the accord right now.”

Ahmad Amirabadi, a member of the Parliament Presiding Board, warned on Saturday that Iran will expel the IAEA inspectors unless U.S. sanctions are lifted by a February 21 deadline set by the nuclear law.

“Iran, without a doubt, will stop the voluntary implementation of Additional Protocol if the sanctions against Iran, especially in finance, banking and oil sectors are not lifted by the mentioned day. This is a law passed by the Iranian Parliament. The government is committed to implementing this law,” the lawmaker said.

“We gave the U.S. a one-month opportunity. The new U.S. administration will take the office on January 21,” he noted.

According to the lawmaker, it does not make sense for Iran to implement the JCPOA while the U.S. sanctions are in place because the main goal of the JCPOA was to lift all sanctions but the sanctions were not lifted.

Amirabadi also noted that implementing the JCPOA commitments is harmful to the Iranian nation, which has suffered from this deal while Americans and Europeans did not suffer any harm.

Expelling international inspectors is part of the nuclear law and that if the West doesn’t implement its JCPOA commitments, the Iranian government would be duty-bound to implement this law.

“The law of the Parliament is absolutely binding on everyone and we are all duty-bound to implement it. As soon as the law was completed, we implemented it, despite the government's views from day one,” said Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Monday.

Iran has waited for so long to see the Europeans move to change tack but they refused to implement their commitment. Now, it seems that Iran is hell-bent on making the JCPOA participants that it cannot continue to implement the nuclear deal one-sidedly. Therefore, the Europeans need to take Iran’s deadline seriously before it’s too late.

MS/PA

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