Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote a letter to the foreign ministers of the countries who signed on to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to update them on the status of attempts to keep the deal alive despite the US withdrawal.
In the letter, Zarif called the US exit from the deal between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany “impulsive, unlawful and provocative.” Zarif wrote that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s threats to punish countries that continue to deal with Iran violated US commitments to the JCPOA, "failed to comply with the unanimously adopted" UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and "breached the Charter of the United Nations and showed their contempt for international law.”
The letter said the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, has repeatedly confirmed that Iran has lived up to its obligations of the nuclear accord. Zarif wrote, “If the JCPOA is to survive, the remaining JCPOA participants need to ensure that Iran is unconditionally compensated.”
The letter, which Zarif published as screenshots on his personal Twitter page June 7, is dated May 23. The tweet was accompanied by the text, “My letter to fellow foreign ministers on steps to take to address US unlawful withdrawal from JCPOA.” However, the letter did not offer specific steps other than insistence on continued sanctions relief.
While Zarif has been active on the diplomatic front to keep the nuclear deal alive, Ali Akbar Salehi — the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran — spoke to Iranian television from the Natanz nuclear facility on Iran’s decision to push forward on enrichment following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Salehi said that at Iran’s current capacities, “We cannot produce centrifuges at our desired levels because we have limitations under the nuclear deal and the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] asked that for now we operate under the nuclear deal.” Regarding the call for 190,000 SWU (separative work units), which is what Khamenei first called for in 2014, Salehi said, “If we connect the sixth-generation centrifuges with 60,000 machines, we can reach 180,000 SWU within 10 months." He said Iran could reach 190,000 with more advanced centrifuges.
Salehi also addressed the cost of Iran’s nuclear program. He said that in the last 30 years, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization has spent $6.5 billion and that $1.5 billion has been on the Bushehr nuclear plant. He said Bushehr value is $5 billion, far more than Iran has spent on the plant.
He discussed sabotage and in particular the Stuxnet virus that infected Iran’s centrifuges. While there were reports that one-fifth of Iran’s centrifuges were destroyed by Stuxnet, Salehi said the Iran had been prepared for such an attack and said the countries that released the virus were not successful. He added, “Even if they destroy our installations, they cannot do anything to our knowledge, which is in our minds.”
Regarding efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive, Salehi said, “The problems with the deal are not technical but the lack of the other side fulfilling their banking and economic commitments.” He said that Europe is in a “political predicament” between maintaining its political independence while having Iran as an energy source while resisting American pressure to withdraw from economic ties with Iran.