Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “Could soon be a majority” in Iran for withdrawal from 2015 nuclear deal

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday that Iran is continuing to adhere to a July 2015 nuclear agreement despite comprehensive US sanctions, but Iranian officials have again warned that they might quit the deal.

The IAEA said in a quarterly report that Tehran remains within limits on its uranium production in the accord with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia). The Trump Administration withdrew from the agreement last May and imposed economic restrictions, including on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, on November 5.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran agreed to ship all of its 20% enriched uranium, which can be potentially further enriched to military-grade fuel, out of the country. It also pledged to sharply reduce research and development of enrichment capacity and to redesign a heavy water reactor to limit plutonium by-product.

The IAEA’s report showed a small increase of 3.5% enriched uranium, still within the terms of the JCPOA.

Iranian officials have warned that they could leave the agreement, reached after 12 years of intermittent negotiations, if the US sanctions remain. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said in late January that Tehran cheated on one clause in the JCPOA, with deception over the pouring of concrete into the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor.

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That possibility has been heightened by this month’s breakdown over a possible European link to prop up Iran’s troubled economy. The European Commission announced the launch of a Special Purpose Vehicle for non-dollar trade in Iranian oil and other commodities and goods. However, Tehran rejected the arrangement, claiming “humiliating conditions”.

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Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted on Friday, in an interview with a German newspaper, that Tehran has special measures to deal with the US sanctions. Asked what they were, he replied, “I will not say. [Donald] Trump loves the element of surprise, so we’ll entertain him.”

However, he warned that the Islamic Republic might leave the JCPOA:

That depends on the will of the Iranian nation. There was a vocal minority that was against the deal. But when people become even angrier, it could soon be a majority.