Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said his country is ready to reduce its nuclear commitments if Europe is unable to secure the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal signed by Iran and the six world powers in 2015.
Mousavi’s comments come one day after Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China met in Vienna to discuss the fate of the JCPOA, from which the United States withdrew in May 2018. Mousavi said the July 28 JCPOA meeting was held at the request of both Europe and Iran and that Europe had expressed their protest against Iran for reducing their nuclear commitments under the JCPOA. So far, Iran has increased its enrichment beyond 3.67% and increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to beyond the agreed-upon 300 kilograms. Iran has stressed that these steps can be fully reversed once Europe fulfills its end of the JCPOA.
At the Vienna meeting, Iran complained about European arrests and extradition of Iranians to the United States. The Donald Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran after its withdrawal from the JCPOA. Mousavi said the individuals arrested by Europe were apprehended because of “America’s unilateral oppressive sanctions.”
Europe has already introduced INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) to facilitate trade between Iran and Europe and bypass US sanctions. However, the volume of trade on INSTEX remains too small to satisfy Iran’s need to safely sell its oil. Mousavi said the topic of INSTEX was raised at the latest meeting; however, “it was not significant.” He also referred to INSTEX as “the beginning of the opposing side implementing its commitments.” Mousavi added, “We are still awaiting actionable and tangible steps from Europe to implement the JCPOA."
Iran plans to roll out its reduced commitments within a 60-day period. Following the moves to breach the enrichment and stockpile limits, the third step will likely not take place until early September. However, Iranian officials continue to stress that the third step, which will be taken immediately after meeting with European officials, suggests the chances of it happening are high.
While the meeting in Vienna appeared to move forward without any new conflicts over the JCPOA, Iran and Britain are currently locked in a dispute over seized oil tankers. An Iranian oil tanker that was reportedly headed to Syria was seized by the UK off of the coast of Gibraltar, and a British tanker in the Persian Gulf was seized by Iran. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab rejected the call to exchange tankers. “This is not about some kind of barter,” Raab said, adding, “This is about international law and the rules of the international legal system being upheld, and that is what we will insist on.” The UK claims Iran violated EU sanctions on Syria. Iran claims the British ship committed violations while traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which seized the British tanker, released audio of its communications with a British warship after the seizure of the tanker. The IRGC sailor on the communications can be heard saying, “This is Sepah navy patrol. Do not put your life in danger.” Another IRGC sailor can be heard saying “Your tanker British heritage is under my control. You are ordered to not interfere in my operation.”