image Photo: Reuters

Iran gives Europe 2 month ultimatum

Iran’s Guardian Council has approved a new law requiring the government halt United Nations inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment beyond limits set in the 2015 nuclear deal if Europe does not lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s oil and financial sectors in two months.

“Today in a letter, the parliament speaker officially asked the president to implement the new law,” Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The sanctions were imposed after the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers in 2018; with Tehran responding to Washington’s “maximum pressure campaign” by gradually reducing compliance with the deal.

The Guardian Council is a strict watchdog body that reviews new legislation to ensure it is in not in contradiction of Shi’ite Islamic laws or Iran’s constitution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately has final authority over all matters of state, is not known.

The move comes in the wake of last week’s assassination of the Islamic Republic’s top nuclear scientist Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which the Islamic Republic has accused Israel of committing.

The Iranian parliament overwhelmingly approved the bill that will further harden the country’s nuclear stance. Under the new law was pushed by hardline lawmakers, the government would resume uranium enrichment to 20% and install advanced centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow nuclear facilities.

The JCPOA had capped the fissile purity to which Iran could refine uranium at 3.67%. That is both far below the 20% the Islamic Republic had achieved prior to the agreement, as well as below the weapons-grade level of 90%.

Iran breached the 3.67% limit in July 2019; and since that time enrichment has remained consistent at up to 4.5%.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was his side’s architect of the 2015 deal, criticized parliament’s move as “harmful to diplomatic efforts” aimed at easing U.S. sanctions.

Britain, France and Germany, all parties to the 2015 deal, have urged Iran to fully respect it. United States President-elect Joe Biden previously stated he would lift sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and return to the JCPOA on condition the Ayatollah Regime resumed “strict compliance” with the curbs on its nuclear program.