By Mahmoud Hakamian
Earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the country was going to increase its enriched uranium stockpile to the level it wishes, disregarding the limits that it is obliged to adhere to according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or 2015 Iran nuclear deal as it is more commonly referred to.
U.S. President Donald Trump responded to this in a message on Twitter, saying that Iran should watch what it threatens. He said: “ (…) Be careful with the threats, Iran. They can come back to bite you like nobody has been bitten before!”
The Iranian President said in no uncertain terms that his country would increase its enrichment to levels that would bring it much closer to having a nuclear weapon if the United States and the Europeans did not offer a new nuclear deal. He gave them a deadline of this Sunday.
In a Cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Rouhani said: “Our advice to Europe and the United States is to go back to logic and to the negotiating table. Go back to understanding, to respecting the law and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council. Under those conditions, all of us can abide by the nuclear deal.”
Iran has already exceeded the limits set out by the nuclear deal. On Monday, Iranian state media reported that the country’s uranium stockpile had exceeded the limit of 660 pounds.
Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog that monitors compliance to the deal, was verifying the development. The organisation was able to confirm on Tuesday that Iran had indeed exceeded the limit.
Reacting to Rouhani’s announcement, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Mohammad Mohaddessin said: “The events of recent days and Rouhani’s announcement today show clearly that the mullahs’ regime never abandoned its nuclear weapons projects and it is trying to find an opportunity to pursue it once again. As the Iranian Resistance has repeatedly stated, the regime must not be allowed to carry out any uranium enrichment and its nuclear projects must be entirely dismantled.”
Earlier this week, President Trump warned Iran that it was playing with fire by taking such action. European leaders also warned Iran that any violation of the nuclear agreement would bring consequences.
Iran, through all of this, ultimately wants the Europeans to make economic guarantees that would alleviate a significant amount of pressure. The Europeans set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Instex with the intention of protecting trade with the Islamic Republic. However, Iran has been unsatisfied with the efforts made and has described the mechanism as disappointing. Iranian officials have said that they want the SPV to be accompanied by another mechanism that gets around the U.S. sanctions that restrict the purchase of Iranian oil.
Instex was set up with the intention of facilitating the trade of medical goods, food and other basic goods. However, oil sales are crucial to the Iranian economy and Instex, as it stands, will not make much of an improvement to the Iranian economy.
Iran is also arguing that it should not have to stick to the terms of the nuclear agreement now that the United States is not a signatory because it loses out on economic benefits since sanctions were re-imposed.
The regime is acting like it is in the driving seat, but it is belligerent and has malign goals. Its recent series of threats and provocations will do nothing to help its case.