President Hassan Rouhani has announced Iran’s next suspension of commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, with enrichment of uranium beyond the permitted low-grade 3.67%.
Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that Tehran will “take the next step” on Sunday, repeating his warning to Europe from May that Iran would step up enrichment if the Europeans did not establish vital economic links to bypass US sanctions.
He blamed the Trump Administration, which withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and imposed comprehensive sanctions from November: “If the US is so much afraid of the word fire, then it must not start the flames….The only way to put out this fire is to return to commitments and United Nations’ resolutions.”
But he also chided the Europeans while acknowledging Iran’s economic problems, “It is very surprising that when Europe stays silent when it sees that a nation of 82 million people is having trouble supplying its basic needs.”
On Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Iran has exceeded its permitted stockpile of 300 kg (660 pounds) of 3.67% uranium under the deal with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia), from which the Trump Administration withdraw in May 2018.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran halted production of 20% uranium — with the potential of further enrichment to more than 90% for military use — and shipped stocks outside the country.
Rouhani said on Wednesday, “If you want to express regret and issue a statement, you can do it now.”
He also said that Iran would suspend the decommissioning of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor, resuming construction.
The nuclear deal halted Arak’s development, because its plutonium by-product could be used in a military program, until it was redesigned.
The European Union launched a Special Purpose Vehicle in February for limited non-dollar trade in Iranian oil and other commodities and goods. Tehran rejected the mechanism because of “humiliating conditions” such as the EU’s concern over Iran’s missile program, activities in the Middle East, and alleged involvement in assassination and bomb plots in Europe.
After talks in Vienna last Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said talks were “still not enough and not meeting Iran’s expectations”.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Zarif said Iran would return to compliance with the nuclear deal if Europe “comply with their” commitments.
Rouhani elaborated about the Special Purpose Vehicle, also known as INSTEX:
Today, INSTEX is only a mechanism without money, and an empty INSTEX is not useful at all.
But if INSTEX is activated and Iran gets is oil money, it can be acceptable to some extent despite its shortcomings.