The Islamic Republic of Iran announced that by the 27th of June, Tehran intends to end its commitments to the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, a move likely to strain the already tense relationship with the United States and its regional partners.
At an international Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia that was held over the weekend, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that the international community cannot expect the Islamic Republic to adhere to the nuclear deal, unless all relevant parties commit to its restoration. In his words: “Obviously, Iran cannot stick to this agreement unilaterally. It is necessary that all the sides of this agreement contribute to restoring it.”
Despite an alarming statement by the International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General last week, in which Yukiya Amano alluded to his organization’s inability to indicate ‘when Tehran might reach stockpile limits that were set under the nuclear deal;’ European officials remain adamant on preserving the multilateral agreement – so-long as the Islamic Republic fulfills its commitments.
According to Stef Blok, te Dutch Foreign Minister “The (Iran) nuclear deal should be judged on the content of the deal itself so it’s very important to keep on verifying through the International Atomic Agency whether Iran is still fulfilling the criteria and as long as Iran is fulfilling these criteria, we should stick to this deal.”
Despite European efforts to salvage the deal, Iranian patience is evidently running out. The country’s Atomic Energy Organization’s Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvadi stressed that even though Europe has a few days left to provide the Ayatollah regime with the benefits of the agreement, Tehran has lost confidence in Europe’s ability to act. “The Europeans still have some time left. They of course had the whole of last year which we labelled from our side the “year of strategic patience”. They had a further two months after the year had passed. For us we can interpret this inaction (by the Europeans to safeguard the JCPOA) in two ways: 1. Either they do not want to take any action, or 2. They want to do something but are unable to do so for whatever reason,”Kamalvadi said.
As such, Kamalvadi announced Tehran’s intention to breach the limits set under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the technical term for the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. He said: “From the 27th of June we will bypass the 300 kg limit (for enrichment). We will not only bypass this limit, but the production levels will increase significantly. Once we bypass the 300 kg limit, we will also be able to increase the rate of low uranium enrichment at the level of 3.67.”
The Iranian announcement has raised additional concerns in the West, prompting European leaders to warn Tehran of potentially devastating consequences. In a joint press conference in Paris with visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron underscored that Europe will continue to dissuade Iran from pursuing a detrimental nuclear program – which constitutes a blatant escalation that will not help the international community in general, and the Islamic Republic in particular. The French President said: “All forms of escalation do not go in the right direction and won’t help Iran itself and the international community, so we will do all we can with our partners to dissuade Iran and find a path to a possible path for dialogue and improvement of these conditions.”
In contrast to Europe’s approach, which Washington officials described as “naïve,” the United States has announced its intention to deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East. According to a statement by the Pentagon, those troops will be earmarked for surveillance of Iranian activities, and protection of American forces already deployed in the region. The American decision to deploy additional troops came a day after Washington’s top diplomat insisted once again that the United States does not want war.
In an interview with the American broadcast “Fox News Sunday”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored that Washington’s efforts are aimed at deterring the Islamic Republic malign behavior. He said: “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war. We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging this kind of behavior. I made a number of calls to my colleagues around the world yesterday. I am confident we will have partners that understand this threat.”
Secretary Pompeo also took the opportunity to reiterate Washington’s assessment, based on published intelligence reports’ documenting its findings, according to which which the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards are responsible for last week’s attack on two oil vessels in the strait of Hormuz. According to the U.S. Secretary of State: “It’s unmistakable what happened here. These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping on the freedom of navigation with a clear intent to deny transit through the strait.” / “We’re going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the strait. This is international challenge. This is important to the entire globe. The United States is going to make sure that we do take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise that achieve that outcome.”
The American top diplomat also sought to once again clarify the Trump Administration’s goal vis-à-vis Iran. “President Trump has been unambiguous, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. That’s the goal. That’s the objective of our entire campaign with respect to Iran and to create stability throughout the Middle East as part of that effort,” Pompeo said.
In response to the ongoing standoff between Iran and the United States that may lead to a military conflagration; the Iranian leadership sought to reassure its public that the perceived superior military power of the United States is taken out of proportions. Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani insisted that the American military power is often exaggerated beyond reality – claiming that Americans live in a Hollywood movie, similar to ‘mission impossible.’ In Ali Shamkhani’s words: “The Americans’ ability in the cyber sphere is like their military capabilities – it is often exaggerated beyond the reality. The Americans live in a Hollywood movie and they create the mission impossible. The reality is that they don’t have the effective military capabilities to use against free nations.”
Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s uncompromising support for the United States, in efforts to confront Iran’s aggressive behavior. In an address to a state ceremony commemorating Israel’s past Presidents and Prime Ministers, Netanyahu urged the international community to unite behind Washington’s leadership in confronting Tehran, and urged for more sanctions against the Ayatollah regime – necessary measures to curb Iran’s malign ambitions. Netanyahu said: “Israel stands together with the United States, with moderate Arab countries and other states, in resisting Iran’s aggressive behavior. Today, Iran threatened to enrich uranium to high levels, above what’s allowed in the nuclear agreement. It doesn’t surprise us because when we brought the secret nuclear archive from Tehran to Israel, we unveiled to what extent Iran has broken its promise to the international community, its promise to deliver truthful reports on its nuclear program. Should Iran deliver on its current threats, and violate the nuclear deal, the international community will have to implement, immediately, the pre-set sanctions mechanism, what is called ‘snapback sanctions. In any event, Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weaponry.”
Netanyahu also alluded to possibly conducting a preemptive strike – saying: “the lessons of the Yom Kippur War continue to sear in us. In the face of an existential threat, we must never bury our heads in the sand. Vigilance against dangers and the duty to take action against them in advance is the responsibility – I would say the most important responsibility – that is incumbent on every Prime Minister.”
With regard to the emerging relations between Jerusalem and the moderate Arab world, Netanyahu reiterated that the common challenges and aspirations have brought Israel’s former adversaries to appreciate its regional contribution for the future. The Israeli Prime Minister stated that “Alongside the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan we strengthen our relationship, in an unprecedented way, with additional countries in the Arab and Muslim world. Those countries understand more and more that Israel is not their enemy, to the contrary, Israel is a strong and stable ally that seeks, together with them, to ensure the future of the region.”