National Post (Latest Edition)
Iran restarts enrichment amid rising tensions
DUBAI • Iran has resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by U. S. president- elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.
Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Iran’s foe Israel, said the move was aimed at developing nuclear weapons and Israel would never allow Tehran to build them. The enrichment decision, Iran’s latest contravention of the accord, coincides with increasing tensions between Iran and the United States in the last days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Tehran started violating the accord in 2019 in a stepby- step response to Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018 and the reimposition of U. S. sanctions lifted under the deal. The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.
“A few minutes ago, the process of producing 20 per cent enriched uranium has started in Fordow enrichment complex,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told Iranian state media.
The UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity at its Fordow site.
“Iran today began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1 per cent U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant for further enrichment up to 20 per cent,” the IAEA said in a statement on a report that was sent to member states.
The step was one of many mentioned in a law passed by Iran’s parliament last month in response to the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
“Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL ( parties to the deal),” tweeted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Tehran insists it can quickly reverse its breaches if U. S. sanctions are removed. Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has said the United States will rejoin the deal “if Iran resumes strict compliance” with the pact.
The Biden transition team declined to comment on Iran’s enrichment move. The White House National Security Council had no comment, and referred queries to the U.S. State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tehran’s move could further hinder efforts to salvage the pact as its breaches have increasingly worried some of the deal’s other parties, which have urged Iran to act responsibly.
In Brussels, a European Union Commission spokesperson said that the “move, if confirmed, would constitute a considerable departure from Iran’s commitments.”