Gradually suspending its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran has indicated that it will step up uranium enrichment to 5%.

The Supreme Leader’s top foreign policy aide, Ali Akbar Velayati, said yesterday that Iran will escalate on Sunday, breaking the 3.67% limit set in the agreement with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China).

In order for us to be able to make use of uranium at the Bushehr [nuclear] reactor, a 5% purity is needed, and it is a totally peaceful purpose that we generate power from the reactor jointly built by Iran and Russia.

In the video message, Velayati asserted, “Americans directly and Europeans indirectly violated the deal.”

In May, President Hassan Rouhani set the July 7 deadline for Europe to establish economic links with Iran, bypassing the comprehensive US sanctions crippling the economy, or Iran would begin suspension of commitments.

But with tensions rising with the Trump Administration, which left the deal in May 2018, Iran has already begun exceeding the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran has surpassed the limit of 300 kg (660 pounds) of 3.67% uranium. On Wednesday, Rouhani said construction will resume on the Arak heavy-water reactor, development of which was halted under the JCPOA until a redesign ensured there was no plutonium by-product which could be put to military use.

Iran Daily, July 4: Rouhani — We’ll Suspend Nuclear Deal to Enrich Uranium to Higher Level
Iran Daily, July 2: Tehran Suspends Nuclear Deal Commitment on Low-Grade Uranium

However, the Iranian measures are still well short of returning to the production of 20% uranium — which potentially can be further enriched to more than 90% for nuclear warheads — that it pursued before the 2015 deal.

Velayati said on Friday that the 5% uranium will be useful for “routine” industrial, and energy needs which “are vital for us”. He maintained that Iran was only responding in kind to the violation of the JCPOA by others — presumably a reference to the US withdrawal and sanctions and to the failure to establish the European links.

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”.

Velayati said:

We will show reaction exponentially as much as they violate it. We reduce our commitments as much as they reduce it. If they go back to fulfilling their commitments, we will do so as well.