Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi indicated on Monday that Iran is preparing to withdraw from the nuclear deal crafted by President Barack Obama. The move comes just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver an address reports claim will reveal that Iran has violated the deal.
Early reports made it sound as if Araghchi might be saying Iran is certain President Donald Trump will withdraw from the deal, but according to Haaretz he was, in fact, stating that Iran will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, as it is formally known) no matter what the Trump administration does: “The status quo of the deal is simply not sustainable for us, whether or not the Americans get out of the deal.”
Haaretz adds that Iranian atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi claims his country now has better weapons-grade enrichment capabilities than what it possessed before the JCPOA was implemented. Salehi was trying to intimidate Trump into keeping the deal, but his comments appear to lend credence to accusations that Iran has been cheating all along:
Iran has the technical capability to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before a multinational nuclear deal was reached to curb its nuclear programme, state TV quoted the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy organization Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.
Salehi warned Trump against taking this course. “Iran is not bluffing … Technically, we are fully prepared to enrich uranium higher than we used to produce before the deal was reached … I hope Trump comes to his senses and stays in the deal.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an unscheduled meeting with his security cabinet on Monday morning and cleared his schedule for a Monday evening address in which he will reportedly present “dramatic” evidence that Iran has violated the JCPOA.
Netanyahu spoke with President Donald Trump by telephone on Sunday and met in person with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Netanyahu and Pompeo are said to have exchanged words about Iran and the nuclear deal, and few of those words were kind.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro connected the dots on Twitter:
Obviously, Netanyahu's announcement tonight on the Iranian nuclear program is fully coordinated with the US side. The call with Trump yesterday and Pompeo's visit would have locked it in.
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) April 30, 2018
Shapiro went on to suggest that such evidence of Iranian cheating could actually be used to punish Iran without scrapping the JCPOA, in essence by invoking provisions that strong sanctions can be leveled against Iran for violating the deal without revoking it. Iran would seem to be threatening to scuttle the deal if those provisions are invoked.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chimed in by mocking Netanyahu as “the boy who cried wolf” on Twitter, visually alluding to the U.N. address where the Israeli prime minister used a cartoon of a bomb to illustrate how close Iran was to achieving nuclear weapons:
BREAKING: The boy who can't stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA. You can only fool some of the people so many times. pic.twitter.com/W7saODfZDK
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 30, 2018
In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States of breaching the JCPOA merely by criticizing it, because President Trump’s negative comments created “fear and ambiguity for different countries and businesses for their relations with Iran.”