Iran announced its second violation in a week of the landmark deal meant to slow the country’s march to a nuclear bomb.
Iranian officials announced Sunday that Iran has increased uranium enrichment beyond the purity limits set in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an accord commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, CNN reported.
Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said that his country has started enriching uranium above a concentration of 3.67%, the agreed upon threshold. Low-enriched uranium at that level is suitable for powering nuclear reactors, but it is far from weapons grade.
On Monday, July 1, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium had surpassed the 300 kg limit set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, an Obama-era agreement that was expected to effectively restrict the growth of Iran’s stockpile until 2030.
Iran acknowledged the breach determined by the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog organization but stressed that the move is “reversible” with a new agreement.
Read more:Iran breached a limit on its nuclear fuel stockpile which it was meant to observe for another 11 years under Obama-era nuclear deal
That same day, Iran threatened to begin enriching uranium at levels closer to weapons-grade levels by Sunday, July 7 without a new deal or sanctions relief.
Read more:Iran has threatened to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels within a week after violating the 2015 nuclear deal
Iran’s latest actions mean that the country is no longer in compliance with the deal it signed with six countries in 2015, an international accord the US unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. In the wake of the US decision, the Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran, raising tensions between Washington and Tehran.
The White House is targeting Iran with a maximum pressure strategy.
“The Iranian regime took action today to increase its uranium enrichment. It was a mistake under the Iran nuclear deal to allow Iran to enrich uranium at any level,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Monday. “Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action. The regime must end its nuclear ambitions and its malign behavior.”
Iran’s decision to enrich beyond the pre-set purity levels comes at the end of a 60-day deadline Tehran gave the nuclear deal’s remaining signatories. Iran has said that it will reduce its commitment to the nuclear deal further every 60 days.
Some observers argue the Iranian government is trying to pressure the remaining signatories, Europe in particular, to protect it from US sanctions. Others, such as Israel’s energy minister Yuval Steinitz, say Iran has “begun its march… toward nuclear weaponry.”
“Iran’s increasing nuclear activities are tit-for-tat responses to US actions, not some all-out drive for a bomb,” nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis said on Twitter Sunday, adding,”Refusing to see the difference between the two is a pretty good way to end up with the latter.”