The Iranian government announced on Sunday that it ceases to comply in practice with the limitations imposed on its atomic program by the 2015 nuclear agreement, although it will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
According to the official statement, the fifth and final step of reducing nuclear commitments “eliminates the last technical restriction that was left, which was the limit on the number of centrifuges”, which was about 6,100 for uranium production.
The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic of Iran thus does not face operational restrictions on the capacity and percentage of uranium enrichment, the amount of enriched material and research and development.
From now on, Iran’s nuclear program will only be developed based on its “technical needs,” the text added, published after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Hasan Rohaní.
Despite ceasing to comply with the limitations, the Iranian Executive did not announce his withdrawal from the historic pact, which was abandoned by the United States in May 2018, which also reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Iran began last May to gradually stop fulfilling its nuclear commitments and give two-month ultimatums to the remaining signatories of the agreement (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) to counter US sanctions.
Maintains cooperation with the IAEA
Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA will continue as before, the official note said, indicating that the Persian authorities will continue to allow inspections by experts from the international body.
The IAEA has a duty to verify compliance with the nuclear agreement and the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the safeguards agreements (controls) of the Iranian atomic program.
The Iranian government also announced that it will return to its nuclear commitments if sanctions are lifted and the country benefits from its interests enshrined in the pact.
The nuclear agreement, JCPOA, limited Iran’s atomic program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions, so the US exit. It left it seriously weakened.
Europe has tried to take measures to save the pact, but none has been effective and the special payment channel promised to circumvent the sanctions has not yet been launched.
One more step through tension
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abas Musaví, explained hours before the official announcement that a series of decisions had already been made regarding the fifth step but that these could be affected due to “the current situation”.
Last Friday, USA killed in a bombing in Baghdad the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimaní, and Tehran has promised that they will avenge that crime.
Faced with these threats, US President Donald Trump said yesterday that he has identified 52 Iran’s objectives to respond “very quickly” and “very strongly” to the possible reprisals of Tehran.
Given these statements, the Foreign spokesman said that “in politics, all events and threats are linked to each other”.
The possibility that the murder of Soleimaní affected the already battered nuclear agreement was an option feared by the other signatories, so the European Union made an attempt in extremis today to avoid it.
The European External Action Service reported that the current High Representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, had invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Brussels to address this issue.
Borrell stressed “the importance of preserving” the Iranian nuclear agreement that, in his view, “remains crucial for global security”, while Russia, an ally of Iran, expressed hope that the murder of Commander Soleimani would not affect JCPOA.
The Iranian authorities already exceeded at the beginning of July both the limit of 300 kilos of stored uranium reserves and the enrichment level of 3.67%, reaching a purity of 4.5%, which can now even be exceeded.
Tehran has assured that it is capable of rapidly enriching uranium at 20% since it reached that level before the signing of the pact, which is, however, much lower than necessary to develop the atomic bomb.
The heavy water storage limit has also been exceeded, advanced centrifuges IR-4 and IR-6 have been put into operation when JCPOA only allows the use of the first generation, and uranium has begun to be enriched in the Fordo plant.
Despite not fulfilling their commitments, the Iranian authorities have repeatedly reiterated that their goal is not to manufacture nuclear weapons.