Iran Threatens ‘Industrial Scale’ Uranium Enrichment if Europe Doesn’t Save Nuclear Deal

Mohammad Javad Zarif
AP Photo/Richard Drew

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday that he would attempt to save the nuclear deal through diplomacy after President Donald Trump announced U.S. withdrawal this week.

If that effort fails, he threatened that Iran would resume enriching weapons-grade nuclear material on an “industrial scale.”

Western media outlets seem reluctant to quote at length from Zarif’s belligerent statement, which is filled with fulminations against “Zionists” and wild allegations that the United States has constantly violated the nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“This action on the part of the U.S. President is not limited to the JCPOA. Indeed, violations of law and breaking of commitments have become a pattern under the current U.S. Administration, going from the Paris Climate Accord to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was only due to the global consensus on the JCPOA and the accord’s inner strength that it took the United States Government sixteen months to explicitly pull out,” Zarif railed.

After a sermon about international law that rings very hollow coming from the country that just launched an unprovoked missile attack on Israel from the third-party territory of Syria and was thoroughly humiliated by the Israeli response, Zarif gets down to business and threatens the Europeans that they had better comply with Iran’s demands and keep the deal alive, if they know what is good for them:

Iran, as a country that has remained committed to its legal obligations, will pursue the U.S. Government’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA as provided by the mechanisms and provisions of the accord, and if the U.S. withdrawal is not fully compensated and the full interests of the Iranian people are not met and guaranteed—as stated in the accord and as outlined by Iran’s leader on 9 May—it will exercise its legal right to take whatever reciprocal measures it deems expedient.

Other parties to the JCPOA, and especially its three European signatories, must take necessary action to safeguard the accord and to implement their commitments—which they proved incapable of fully performing even while the U.S. was nominally a party to the deal, due to the obstructions by the Trump Administration—and to proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions.

None of the provisions or timeframes within the JCPOA, which were the subject of twelve years of negotiations, are negotiable in any manner. The U.S., which has through its meddling and erroneous policies ignited extremism, terrorism, destruction, war and child killing in our region, is in no position to issue any diktat about the Islamic Republic of Iran’s lawful presence within its own region nor its effective support for the peoples of Syria and Iraq in their endeavor to fight extremists.

Zarif defiantly refused to scale back Iran’s missile research and production, opening a window into the regime’s psychology by ranting at length about the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s:

The U.S. and its allies, which—through their support for the regime of Saddam Hussein, including equipping it with chemical weapons and the most advanced military equipment while blocking Iran’s access to any means of defense—victimized the Iranian people for eight years, and currrently turning our region into a powderkeg through their sale of hundreds of billions of dollars of useless advanced weaponry devouring the financial resources of the region, are in no position to impose restrictions on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s lawful means of defense, including defensive ballistic missiles which have been designed to carry convetional weapons based on the bitter experiences of the war with the regime of Saddam Hussein.

He then states very clearly that, despite the Obama administration’s fantasies about the JCPOA shutting down all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon, it did little to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

The Foreign Minister has been tasked with the duty of taking the necessary measures to obtain required guarantees from the remaining parties to the JCPOA as well as Iran’s other economic partners, and to immediately report the results of this mission. Meanwhile, the President of the Atomic energy Organization of Iran has been tasked with taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial measures to facilitate this under any circumstance.

“Moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and “hardline” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have both threatened to quickly resume nuclear weapons research after Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, even though the agreement supposedly dismantled their nuclear program. Zarif himself was threatening to resume “vigorous” uranium enrichment for weeks before Trump’s announcement.

Also, this is not the first time Iranian officials have claimed they could resume uranium enrichment in a matter of days if they wanted to—a claim that would be absurd if the JCPOA actually established the sort of inescapable inspection regime it was supposed to.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was cautiously pessimistic about the prospects of keeping the JCPOA alive now that the “huge economic power” of the United States has withdrawn.

“We hope we can, but there are a lot of things playing a role in this. We will have to discuss that with Iran,” she said on Friday, in what sounded like an attempt to lower Iran’s expectations.

Nevertheless, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Britain are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss plans for keeping the nuclear deal alive and continue doing business with Iran despite the return of U.S. sanctions.

“There is a realization among all European states what we cannot keep going in the direction we are headed today whereby we submit to American decisions,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

Reuters notes that German, France, and Britain appear to think they can hold talks in a “broader format on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional military activities, including in Syria and Yemen,” even though Iran could not be more clear that none of that is on the table. Iran will assume the Europeans have too much money at stake to stop doing business with their belligerent terror state, regardless of Tehran’s intransigence. At the moment, it seems like a safe assumption.

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