The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) reported that the Iranian regime continued escalatory nuclear activity last week with the announcement that it would enrich uranium to 60% fissile purity, after systematically breaching terms of the Iran nuclear deal in 2019 and then fully ceasing enforcement at the start of 2020.
This is much more than the previously defined 20% enrichment level, and several orders of magnitude more than the 3.65% allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. The new announcement means nothing other than to threaten the international community with a significantly shorter nuclear breakout period, and it calls for a strong response from Western powers.
Of course, the previous violations called for a strong response, particularly because they exposed Iran’s underlying lack of seriousness when it came to implementing and enforcing the JCPOA.
Many sceptics of the 2015 agreement cautioned that in the absence of “anytime, anywhere” inspections by foreign nuclear inspectors, Iranian regime authorities will be compelled to break the agreement and unilaterally advance certain aspects of the nuclear programme while feigning compliance with the most obvious aspects.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stated in an interview with Iranian state-run media in which he bragged of avoiding an “enrichment deadlock.”
“There was an issue of uranium enrichment in nuclear talks with the P5+1 countries, and they told us that the enrichment should be in that way, and we accepted,” Salehi added. “They thought that they won the negotiation. But – I could not explain this at that time – we had a countermeasure, and while we proceeded with the case, they didn’t achieve what they planned for.”
Salehi tried to justify his actions by claiming that they were based on the presumption that “the other party would one day go against their word.” He made it clear that the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sent him instructions to mislead the international community.
Of course, this remains the case today, although some Western politicians apparently remain persuaded that Khamenei, in particular, is averse to the problems associated with nuclear weapons production.
These tacit defenders of the Iranian position are also keen to invoke a fatwa that the supreme leader once gave, which declared weapons of mass destruction to be contrary to Islam.
The regime’s commitment to the “breakout” policy became clearer than ever with the declaration of 60% uranium enrichment.
The amount of enrichment is well in excess of what is needed for any of the civilian activities that Khamenei and his subordinates publicly claim to be the only goals of the nuclear programme. Its only possible goal is to intimidate the international community with the possibility of a nuclear Iran, which, unless Western powers react forcefully, might become a reality very quickly.
Iran’s stance on its nuclear programme has never been credible, and it is becoming less credible with each move. If the JCPOA’s pre-existing flaws weren’t enough to justify going back to the drawing board and reopening talks with far tougher demands for Iran, the regime’s continued provocative actions ought to be. It is past time for western supporters of the nuclear deal to reconsider their stance and place a higher priority on keeping Tehran accountable.