Iran made a not-so-oblique threat against the United States Monday in an interview on Tehran-based Arabic-language television station al-Alam TV, warning “If America pulls out of the [JCPOA nuclear] deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours.”
Uranium enriched at 20 percent is military-grade nuclear fuel. Although it is not up to the 80-90 percent enrichment required for an atomic bomb, it is far and away beyond the five percent fuel required for civilian nuclear power plants.
The statement, made by Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, indicates the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment centrifuges haven’t been modified or reduced at all – a blatant violation of the JCPOA.
Kamalvandi said from Iran’s standpoint, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal signed in July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus the European Union) could not be re-negotiated as is demanded by the United States.
Under the agreement, Iran was to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, reduce its low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and eliminate the number of its gas centrifuges by two-thirds for the next 13 years. The country also agreed to enrich uranium up to only 3.67 percent and agreed not to build any new heavy water facilities for the same period, in addition to limiting uranium enrichment to one facility using first-generation centrifuges for 10 years.
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to have regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities under the deal – which it does not, since many of Iran’s nuclear facilities fall under the category of military hardware and as such are off-limits to “outsiders,” including to IAEA – but the UN agency has raised few if any objections to the repeated violations.
In return under the deal, the United States, European Union and the UN Security Council offered relief from economic sanctions connected to Iran’s nuclear program, releasing billions of dollars to Tehran as a result.