Iran Claims to Surpass Uranium-Enrichment Limit. Will it?

(Cairo) Whether Iran will move ahead with its threat to stop complying with uranium enrichment limits included in the 2015 nuclear accord with major powers, is a question the Islamic Republic will answer in the coming days.

Iran said on June 17 that it would surpass the limit stipulated in the 2015 accord on the size of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium in a matter of ten days. Ten days later, it said following a meeting with diplomats from European parties to the deal in Vienna that it may go ahead with its plan.

Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said European parties to the deal were not doing enough to induce Iran from moving ahead with ultimatum to surpass the uranium-enrichment limit.

Tehran was hoping that European states would create a barter-trading system with it that could mitigate the effects of the US sanctions. The Europeans have already created the system and discussed some details of it with the Iranian deputy foreign minister.

Called “Instex”, the system is designed to allow Iran to circumvent the US sanctions, which, according to US officials have cost the Islamic Republic up to $50 billion so far. At the Vienna meeting, the Europeans said the system was ready for use, even as it would not be strong enough to help Iran fully avoid the devastating effects of the sanctions.

But this was not good news for Araghchi who said his country may make a decision to stop complying with the low-enriched uranium level. “It is still not enough, and it is still not meeting Iran’s expectations,” Araghchi said of the new system and European efforts to help his country out of the sanctions.

The sanctions are costing the Iranians dearly and Iran is growing fed up as the sanctions do away with almost all important revenue sources for the Islamic Republic. The aforementioned limits were part of the 2015 deal that was signed – apart from Iran – by US President Barack Obama and the heads of other major states, including China and Russia.

They brought Iranian uranium enrichment activities to a minimum in return for alleviating US sanctions. In 2018, however, US President Donald Trump withdrew unilaterally from the deal on the back of fears that it was not enough to ensure that Iran would not possess a nuclear weapon. Despite this, Iran continued to show abidance by the deal.

Iran then stopped complying with some of its commitments in the accord on May 8. It even threatened to move ahead with suspending further obligations to the accord after 60 days. This is expected to happen in July.

One of the reasons Iran did this, observers said, was that it was afraid that a lack of abidance would make matters worse with the US. Nonetheless, the most recent Iranian threat that it would stop complying by deal limits is motivated by a number of developments, observers said.

An economically struggling Iran because of the sanctions seeks a moral victory it can use in keeping the lid on internal public anger at sanctions-induced economic deterioration, observers said.

The failure of Mr Trump to make good on his threat to make Iran pay for its downing of a US drone on June 20 and attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier is further empowering Tehran, they added.

Tehran seems to have grown accustomed to Mr Trump’s megaphone diplomacy. Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, said his country would resist any US sanctions, exactly as it did during Iran’s war with neighboring Iraq in the 1980s. “We persevered then, and will now,” Zarif wrote on Twitter on June 28.