2019-07-08 14:19:271 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
As promised, Iran has surpassed the uranium enrichment limit, breaching the nuclear deal they still hold with several other countries because they refuse to help them with the economic sanctions that Donald Trump has imposed on the country. They promised it would happen by Sunday, and it did.
Trump pulled the United States out of that same deal, one that was made with former President Barack Obama, one year ago and promised sanctions. A few months later he followed up and issued the sanctions. With several more problems between the two countries over the past few months, Trump continued to hit them with more sanctions, crippling their economy, forcing them to use their nuclear threat to encourage Europe to help them financially.
Last week it was confirmed that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium had exceeded the 660-pound limit that the country was allowed. That alone did not put them that much closer to nuclear weapon capabilities, as while the uranium is suitable as fuel for nuclear power plants, it falls short of the weapons-grade needed for a nuclear bomb.
Additionally, they warned that they would stray further from the deal on Sunday if Europe did not help them with sanctions relief. The original deal was intended to provide Iran with economic benefits; however, European companies don't want to do business with them, fearful that Trump will hit them up with sanctions as penalty for helping Iran.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), reported to local news agencies on Monday that Iran has exceeded the 3.67 percent limit and is now enriching uranium at 4.5 percent. However, this rate is still much below the 90 percent that is needed to produce a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that inspectors were still verifying this information. "We are aware of Iran's announcement related to its uranium enrichment level," an agency spokesman said. "We are in the process of verifying this development.
Iran has vowed to continue to pare down the obligations it had been meeting of the original deal and set 60-day intervals for this process. This gives Europe another deadline of September 5 before Iran breaches the agreement even further.
"Abbas Mousavi, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said if European countries "do not fulfill their commitments seriously and do not do anything more than talk, Iran's third step will be harder, more steadfast, and somehow stunning."
Kamalvandi suggested that the AEOI could raise Iran's enrichment level of uranium to 20 percent. They could also reinstall advanced centrifuges that were deactivated under the deal.
"For now, we don't need 20 percent," he said in an Iranian interview, while adding that the 4.5 percent rate was enough to supply fuel to the country's power plants. "But if we do, since we have already exceeded 3.67 percent, we have no limitation or obstacles to do so."
Iran has said they need the 20 percent level for use in an old, research reactor in Tehran that was supplied by the U.S. It produces isotopes for medical and scientific purposes. The nuclear deal required the country to fabricate an existing stockpile of 5 percent uranium to 20 percent, transfer it out of Iran, or dilute it to 3.67 percent.
Mousavi added that Iran has "no hope" that the remaining countries in the deal could salvage the agreement. "But the door of diplomacy is open," he promised.
Just before Iran made the announcement of the increased level of uranium, Trump offered to sit down and discuss the issue with Iranian leaders, but Iran isn't interested in talking to the U.S. at this time.
A U.S. official said the Trump administration is hoping for three things to happen: Europe imposes sanctions on Iran to keep it from violating the deal any more than they have, a barter system the Europeans have created to help Iran obtain goods succeeds, and Iran will be deterred from further military escalation by recent U.S. military maneuvers in the Middle East.
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