Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization’s Spokesman: The ultimatum will not be extended.1
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that Iran will not extend the 60-day ultimatum to end economic sanctions it set for the five countries that are still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal (Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain). He warned that Iran would keep reducing its JCPOA obligations when the ultimatum expires on July 7, 2019. Kamalvandi made clear that, in line with Iran’s right to take “appropriate countermeasures” regarding the implementation of the deal, each step it takes will depend on the other parties’ adherence to the agreement.
We cannot keep complying with the deal while the other parties are doing nothing…. The only way to rectify the situation is for the other side to meet its obligations…. We are trying to balance between our obligations and our rights, and if they recognize our rights – the lifting of the sanctions – we will then honor our obligations; if not, we will continue to reduce them so as to ensure a balance.
The behavior of the five countries indicates that they are indifferent or unable to meet their obligations…. Iran, in any case, will act according to the injunctions of the Leader Khamenei and the laws of the Majlis [parliament].”2
On May 8, 2019, exactly one year since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran had told the leaders of the five countries that it would be accumulating enriched uranium and heavy water in quantities that breach its limits under the agreement. Rouhani gave the five countries 60 days to fulfill their economic obligations to Iran under the agreement, particularly in the banking and energy sectors. He warned that if they did not do so, Iran would no longer meet its obligation under the agreement to enrich uranium to a level no higher than 3.67 percent, and would not set a limit on its uranium enrichment (meaning, implicitly, not even if it were to reach a military level).
The Heavy Water Reactor in Arak
Rouhani added that Iran, based on plans that preceded the signing of the nuclear deal, would also launch an effort to modernize the heavy-water reactor in Arak.
“The new Arak heavy water [reactor] is in fact in initial stages,” according to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. “We are still working on the design of the new reactor. As I have said, the job is very slow, but we cannot wait anymore. As the second step, after 60 days from May 8, we will end our cooperation with JCPOA participants on the Arak heavy water [reactor] project,”3 Araghchi added.
Iranian president Rouhani stressed that Iran is not seeking to leave the agreement, but said that the deal needs “an emergency operation to survive.” He said Iran was prepared to negotiate within the framework of the nuclear deal but not beyond that framework. “The nuclear deal will remain as it is and cannot be changed…. We are prepared to sit at the negotiating table and discuss ways to better implement it, including ways of fulfilling your [the five countries’] obligations under it.”
In the same vein, Kamalvandi proclaimed on June 17, 2019, “The countdown from 10 has already begun, and in another 10 days, on June 27, Iran will exceed its 300kg uranium stockpile limit…Iran had quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium.”
Kamalvandi added that, regarding the possibility of enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% limit set by the agreement: “There are two scenarios: to increase the enrichment level to 5 percent and use the enriched uranium at the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, or to increase the enrichment level to 20 percent and use it at the Tehran research reactor.” He also said that Iran could revive the Arak heavy water reactor, the core of which was supposedly removed as part of the deal. Kamalvandi stated further that if in the next two-and-a-half months Iran does not manage to find markets for the heavy water, it will accumulate 130 tons of it in that period.
The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman asserted that the AEO is now awaiting the second stage (meaning the one that begins when the ultimatum runs out on July 7) of the measures to further reduce Iran’s adherence to the deal. He remarked: “Europe still has time. We waited a year for the Europeans [until May 8, 2019, a year after the United States withdrew from the deal] as an aspect of our strategic patience.”
Kamalvandi said Iran’s patience was wearing thin in light of Europe’s ongoing indecision about meeting its economic obligations under the nuclear deal. “Europe does not want to do anything or simply is unable to do anything.”
Is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Next?
Mojtaba Zolnur, a hardline Iranian MP who chairs the Iranian parliament’s (Majlis) Nuclear Committee, threatened (June 17) that Iran will consider leaving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if the European parties “fail to take” the necessary measures to save the agreement before the 60-day deadline expires. “We could also stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, and reconsider the level of our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while we consider leaving the NPT,”7 Zolnur warned.
Iran is making its threats against the backdrop of its ongoing tension with international and regional actors in the aftermath of the attack on the tankers in the Persian Gulf; the nuclear threats are further stoking the tension.
Nevertheless, Iran is still making cautious moves regarding breaching the JCPOA. It has not gone too far yet and is still leaving room for diplomatic measures, which reached a peak this week with a rare visit by Japan’s prime minister, which coincided with the attack on two oil tankers, one of which was Japanese. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 13, and it was reported that he carried a letter from President Donald Trump.
Abe’s attempt to mediate between Iran and the United States was rebuffed by Khamenei who declared, “Trump is not worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have and will never have any answer for him.” Abe also met with President Rouhani.
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