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– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Kelsey Davenport

European Powers Should Renew Effort to Bring the United States and Iran Back Into Compliance with 2015 Nuclear Deal

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For Immediate Release: Jan. 14, 2020

Media Contacts: Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom announced Tuesday that they are triggering the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 nuclear deal to respond to Iran’s breaches of key nuclear limits.

We urge the three European governments to redouble their efforts to restore full implementation of the nuclear deal by all parties and to prevent the collapse of this effective nonproliferation agreement.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism is the latest consequence of the Trump administration’s reckless Iran policy. Iran’s decision to breach limits on its nuclear program put in place by the deal is an unfortunate but unsurprising response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s irresponsible choice in 2018 to reimpose sanctions on Iran in violation of the agreement and his administration’s aggressive campaign to deny Tehran any benefit of remaining in compliance with the accord.

While Iran’s violations of the accord are serious, they are reversible and they do not suggest, as some have alleged, that Iran is dashing to acquire a nuclear bomb.

It is critical that the remaining parties to the JCPOA use the dispute resolution mechanism to restore rather than undermine confidence in the nuclear deal. The effort spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron to return the United States and Iran to compliance with the accord and commit both sides to negotiations on a range of issues, including a long-term framework to guide Iran’s nuclear program, is a pragmatic and viable option that addresses concerns in both Tehran and Washington.

The dispute resolution mechanism is outlined in the main text of the JCPOA (paragraphs 36-37). Any party to the deal can trigger the dispute resolution mechanism to address an allegation of noncompliance with the accord’s obligations.

By triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism, the three European parties to the nuclear deal increase the risk that UN Security Council sanctions on Iran will be reimposed. Snapping back UN sanctions lifted by the JCPOA would collapse the deal and could lead to an unrestrained Iranian nuclear program subject to far less intrusive monitoring than is required under the nuclear agreement. This would create a new nuclear crisis that undermines international security and further increases the risk of war.

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While Iran’s violations of the accord are serious, they are reversible and they do not suggest, as some have alleged, that Iran is dashing to acquire a nuclear bomb.

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Iran Abandons Uranium Limits


January/February 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran announced it will cease abiding by all of the limits on uranium enrichment put in place by the 2015 nuclear deal that restricted its nuclear activities, according to a Jan. 5 statement. The Iranian government said the announcement “eliminates the last key operational restriction” put in place by the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But Iran will continue “full cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted on Jan. 5. This includes additional monitoring provisions established by the JCPOA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, shown speaking last year, announced in January that Iran would no longer be constrained by the 2015 nuclear deal that limited its nuclear activities. (Photo: by Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)This is the fifth step Iran has taken to violate the deal after announcing in May 2019 that it would reduce compliance with its obligations every 60 days until its demands on sanctions relief are met. Zarif said that all five steps are “reversible upon effective implementation of reciprocal obligations.”

Specifically, Iran has demanded that the remaining parties to the JCPOA (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union) find a way for Tehran to engage in banking transactions and oil sales.

Although those nations still support the agreement, they have struggled to provide Iran with sanctions relief envisioned by the deal after the United States reimposed sanctions in violation of the deal and withdrew from it in May 2018. (See ACT, June 2019.)

EU foreign policy chief Josep Fontelles said on Jan. 6 that he deeply regrets Iran’s announcement but will “continue working with all participants on a way forward.”

Iran’s announcement came amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran over the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Jan. 6 that “IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!”

Iran did not announce what specific steps it will take that violate the uranium-related limits put in place by the JCPOA. Tehran has already breached most of the restrictions on uranium enrichment put in place by the deal, including the limit on enrichment to a level of 3.67 percent uranium-235, the stockpile limit of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level, and the prohibition on enrichment at the Fordow site. (See ACT, June and December 2019.)

Iran’s statement said there will “no longer be any restriction on the number of centrifuges,” indicating that Tehran may install machines that were dismantled and moved into storage under the nuclear deal.

Prior to the deal, Iran had installed nearly 19,000 centrifuges, including about 1,000 advanced IR-2 machines, at its Natanz and Fordow sites.

The deal permitted Iran to enrich uranium at Natanz using 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, retain 1,044 IR-1 machines at Fordow for medical isotope research and production, and limited numbers of advanced machines for testing. The remaining centrifuges were dismantled and stored under IAEA monitoring at Natanz.

The impact that Iran’s most recent step will have on its nuclear program and the time it would take to produce enough nuclear material for one bomb will depend on how many machines Iran installs and operates and whether Iran decides to enrich uranium to higher levels.

Iran announced in July that it would no longer abide by the 3.67 percent U-235 limit and began enriching uranium to 4.5 percent. Prior to negotiation on the nuclear deal, Iran enriched uranium to 20 percent U-235. Resuming 20 percent enrichment and stockpiling material enriched to that level would decrease more quickly the time it would take for Iran to produce enough nuclear material for a weapon.

The Jan. 5 statement said that Iran’s uranium-enrichment program would be based on its “technical needs,” but it is unclear what Tehran is including in that assessment because Iran’s current needs for uranium to fuel its research reactor and power reactor at Bushehr are being met.

The IAEA said in a Jan. 6 statement that its “inspectors continue to carry out verification and monitoring activities” in Iran and will “keep its member states informed of any developments.”

In response to Iran’s resumption in November of enrichment at Fordow, which was its fourth violation of the deal, the Trump administration announced that waivers allowing cooperative work at that site would be terminated on Dec. 15.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran is prohibited from enriching uranium at Fordow for 15 years and is required to convert the site into a research and medical isotope production site. The JCPOA specified that Russia would assist in the conversion.

Russia announced on Dec. 5 it would suspend its cooperation at that site because the resumption of uranium enrichment caused contamination that prevents further work on medical isotope production.

The Russian Foreign Ministry originally stated that the work at Fordow would continue, but several weeks later, TEVL, which is part of the Russian state-run Rosatom nuclear company, announced that further work would not be possible.

Abbas Mousavi, spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on Dec. 16 that “Iranian and Russian technical experts are working to solve the problem” and that Russia has not “withdrawn from the cooperation” at Fordow.

 

 

In announcing it is no longer bound by key 2015 nuclear deal limits, Iran nevertheless pledged to continue its cooperation with the IAEA.

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