Iran Moves Ahead With Nuclear Ambitions Despite International Concern

Iran says it will take a new step in reducing its commitment to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers this week by injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the Fordow facility.

President Hassan Rohani said on November 5 that Iran will start injecting uranium gas into 1,044 centrifuges on November 6.

Under the nuclear accord, the centrifuges are supposed to spin without gas injection.

Rohani announced Iran’s latest step away from the nuclear agreement since the United States withdrew from it more than a year ago in an address carried live by Iranian state TV.

The move comes a day after Iran announced it was now operating twice as many advanced IR-6 centrifuges that can enrich uranium more efficiently, and that it had a prototype IR-9 centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the pact.

Enriched uranium can be used to make fuel for reactors, but also nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and six world powers and has since reimposed and expanded punishing sanctions as part of a stated campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran.

Meanwhile, Tehran has gradually reduced some of its commitments under the pact, which had curbed its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian officials complain that the remaining parties to the deal have failed to mitigate the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

“The start of centrifuges at Fordow near Qom will be Iran’s fourth step in reducing its nuclear obligations,” Rohani said on November 5, without indicating whether the machines would be used to produce enriched uranium, which can be used to make fuel for reactors but also nuclear weapons.

The centrifuges at Fordow are first-generation IR-1s machines.

The Iranian president insisted that all of the steps his country had taken to reduce its commitments to the nuclear agreement were “reversible.”

Tehran will uphold all of its commitments under the accord when the remaining signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China — do the same, he said.

France’s Foreign Ministry said that Paris remained committed to the nuclear deal and urged Iran to “fully adhere to its obligations.”

European Union spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic called on Iran to “reverse all activities that are inconsistent with its commitments” under the agreement, saying it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to save the accord.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the Kremlin was “monitoring the development of the situation with concern.”

“We support the preservation of this deal,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that Russia understood Iran’s concerns over the “unprecedented and illegal sanctions” against the country.

Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, on November 4 accused Tehran of “trying to get other countries to call the United States and relieve our pressure, so that Iran can go back into compliance with the nuclear deal.”

“We are not going to do that,” Hook added.

The envoy made the comments as Washington announced it had slapped sanctions on nine people connected to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, among them his chief of staff, one of his sons, and the head of Iran’s judiciary.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Washington also put sanctions on Iranian armed forces General Staff members.

Trump wants to force Iran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear accord, arguing that the terms were not tough enough to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons, agree on curbs to its ballistic-missile program, and end its destabilizing activities in the Middle East.

Iran has denied it supports insurgent activity and says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy purposes. Iranian officials have also ruled out any negotiations on the country’s missile program.

By RFE/RL