In an apparent last-ditch attempt to force Europe’s hand in preserving the nuclear deal and showing Iranian resolve to step away if their interests are not guaranteed, Iran has announced it will continue to scale back its commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, spoke to reporters at the nascent Arak heavy water nuclear facility on June 17. In May, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council announced the country would scale back its commitments and gave European signatories to the deal 60 days to provide the promised economic dividends of the JCPOA in order to keep it alive. The United States exited the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions, putting the United Kingdom, Germany and France in the middle of wanting to preserve the deal but afraid of US sanctions if they do. The proposed plan — the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, which was announced in January — has not yet been implemented.
As today’s announcement demonstrated, Iran’s patience is wearing thin. “We’ve increased production at Natanz,” Kamalvandi said of the uranium enrichment plant located in Esfahan province. He added, “In 10 days, we will pass the 300-kilogram ceiling.” As part of its commitments under the JCPOA, Iran reduced its low-enriched uranium stockpile by 98% to 300 kilograms, a limit that was to remain until 2031. Under the deal, the level of enrichment would remain at 3.67%.
Regarding Iran’s reduced commitments, Kamalvandi said, “We are awaiting the decision of officials. There is still time remaining for the Europeans. They’ve had opportunities in the past, and there has been one year of strategic patience and two months' notice.” Kamalvandi said Iran’s recent actions have been in accordance with articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA. Article 26 states that the European Union “will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing the sanctions it has terminated implementing under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolutions process provided for under this JCPOA.” The article continued, “The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA.”
Kamalvandi also said there are different scenarios for how much Iran would accelerate its nuclear program, and these different scenarios have been presented to Iranian officials. “There is a scenario in which the 3.67% is increased to 5% to meet the needs of Bushehr [nuclear power plant] or 20% to meet the needs of the Tehran Research Center.”
Kamalvandi continued, “We are awaiting actions by the opposing side (Europe); meetings and conferences are not enough. When they take action, our commitments will return to the previous situation.” He said if Europe takes action to restore the JCPOA, then it would be up to the Foreign Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council to decide to what level Europe fulfilled its agreements and to what level Iran would return to previous obligations.
In response to US accusations that it was behind the attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces Mohammad Hassein Bagheri said in that if Iran had wanted to stop the exporting of oil from the Persian Gulf, it would have stated so and done so.