President Hassan Rouhani (R) and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi inspecting a nuclear plant, Tehran, April 9, 2019
UPDATE, JAN. 5:
Both China and Russia have played down any increase in tension over Iran’s resumption of enrichment of 20% uranium.
China urges all sides to exercise calm and restraint, to stick to the commitments of the [2015 nuclear] agreement and to refrain from taking actions that might escalate tensions, so as to make space for diplomatic efforts and a change in the situation.
The urgent task at hand is for all sides to push the United States to return unconditionally to the agreement and remove all relevant sanctions.
Russia’s Permanent Representative to international organization in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted:
We aren’t enthusiastic about further deviation of Tehran from its commitments under #JCPOA. But there is nothing to overdramatise. The nuclear programme remains fully transparent and verifiable. We should focus on means to restore comprehensive implementation of the nuclear deal.
— Mikhail Ulyanov (@Amb_Ulyanov) January 4, 2021
The European Union called on Iran to avoid any steps that could undermine “the preservation of the nuclear deal”.
Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission, said:
The deal will be kept alive as long as all the participants deliver on their obligations.”
If this announcement is going to be implemented, the announcement by the Iranian authorities, it would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s nuclear commitments under the JCPOA with serious non-nuclear, non-proliferation implications.
The US State Department spokesman proclaimed in a statement, “Iran enriching uranium to 20% at Fordow is a clear attempt to increase its campaign of nuclear extortion, an attempt that will continue to fail.”
The Trump Administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JAN. 3: Iran has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is resuming enrichment of 20% uranium, suspending a key provision of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the remaining 5+1 Powers (UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia).
An IAEA spokesperson said, “Iran informed the agency of its intention to enrich uranium at a rate of up to 20% in its Fordoo underground plant, to comply with a law recently passed by the Iranian Parliament.”
The spokesperson said the December 31 letter “did not state exactly when this enrichment activity would begin”.
Iran’s Rouhani Government said last Monday that it had authorized a resumption of the pre-2015 enrichment of 20% uranium.
The Government had suspended other provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in response to the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the US from the deal in May 2018 and its imposition of comprehensive sanctions six months later.
But while authorizing an increase of enrichment from 3.67% to 4.5%, President Hassan Rouhani had held out against the 20% level.
His hand was forced last month when the Iranian Parliament, acting over the assassination of leading nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, ordered the resumption. The Majlis demanded a stock of 120 kg (264 lbs.) of 20% uranium within a year
Iran has also installed advanced centrifuges in 2020, and Parliament has mandated the further installation and operate 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in three months and 1000 advanced IR-6 centrifuges within a year.
The underground site of Fordoo, about 90 km (56 miles) southwest of Tehran, is shielded by mountains and ringed by anti-aircraft guns and fortifications. It can hold 3,000 centrifuges.
Iranian media is not officially announcing the 20% enrichment. Instead, it is devoted to the first anniversary of the US assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, in a drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport.
In the days leading up to the anniversary, tributes to Soleimani have been accompanied by threats of retaliation against the US, led by the Revolutionary Guards but also including statements by judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi and the Iran-backed Lebanese organization Hezbollah.