Iran has breached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal by exceeding the permitted 300kg cap of low enriched uranium (3.67%), the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed this week.
Iran had threatened last week that it was preparing to exceed the uranium stockpile threshold, and this week, President Rouhani further increased tensions when he threatened that Iran would in 10 days commence enriching uranium to higher-levels which would take the country closer to having weapons-grade enriched uranium.
Responding to the breach, the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the UK expressed “extreme concern” and urged Iran to “reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal”. U.S. President Donal Trump warned that Iran was “playing with fire”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, confirmed the deliberate violation when he announced, “Iran has crossed the 300kg limit based on its plan”, as a protest towards the US sanctions on Iran’s economy and Europe’s refusal to ease the impact of the sanctions.
The European signatories to the deal have previously warned that any violation would bring consequences, and that the deal allows for the re-imposition of multilateral sanctions that were lifted in return for Iran limiting its nuclear activities.
After 30 days of a “material breach” to the nuclear deal, any of the other parties would be able to “snap back” the UN sanctions lifted under Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the deal. This step cannot be vetoed.
European states who supported the nuclear deal are now faced with a choice; to either re-impose sanctions on Tehran, and risk the destruction of the deal altogether, or withhold sanctions and try to convince Iran to reverse their nuclear programme and realign themselves with the initial agreement.
President Rouhani contended that the European Union and United States should deliver the economic benefits Iran believes it was promised in the nuclear deal before it would be prepared to return to compliance with the initial deal. In the absence of this, Rouhani threatened to “take the next step” and increase uranium enrichment to near weapon levels.
Enriched uranium is used to make nuclear reactor fuel for a civilian nuclear programme, but can also be used to produce nuclear weapons.