As Tehran advances uranium enrichment, Washington prepares for revenge a year after the assassination of the Quds Force commander
Iran has revealed plans to enrich uranium to a 20 percent purity standard, just one step away from weapons-grade uranium, as tensions with the U.S. are increasing in the final days of the presidency of Donald Trump. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it had been told of Iran’s decision to increase enrichment at the Fordow plant, which is buried in a mountainside to shield it from military attacks, although Tehran did not specify when the process would start. The weekend also marked the first anniversary of a U.S. drone attack that killed top general Qassem Suleimani. “After the U.S. stepped up its military deployments and threats, on New Year’s Eve, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the U.S. of seeking to establish a “pretext for war.” The Pentagon unexpectedly pulled the aircraft carrier Nimitz from the area in an apparent attempt at de-escalation, reports the New York Times. US. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the 2018 Trump-abandoned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The deal limited Iran to 3.67% uranium enrichment .
It also called for the conversion of Fordow into a research and development facility.EU foreign ministers pave the way for the restoration of Iran’s nuclear dealRead moreIn reaction to U.S. withdrawal and imposition of sanctions, Iran began violating the agreement in 2019.
Tehran is still allowing inspections in the latest available IAEA study from November, and while it enriches uranium above 3.67 percent, it does not surpass the 4.5 percent cap. Other signatories to the agreement, including the EU, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Russia, have been playing the game for some time, seeking to revive the contract under Biden. The change of administration in the U.S., German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, means that there is a “last window” for progress that “should not be wasted.” But Biden will navigate a partnership with a lot at stake – and try to revive an always-controversial agreement in the face of considerable resistance in both countries – at a time when much of the domestic fight against Covid takes up. Under former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran initially started 20 percent enrichment, raising fears that the country was pursuing a nuclear weapons program, while Tehran has always maintained that it is pursuing only peaceful goals.
The new move came after Iran’s parliament passed a law requiring the country to produce at least 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium annually, following the November assassination of a senior nuclear scientist accused of accusing Israel, a significant step towards weapons-grade uranium enriched to 90 percent-and putting an end to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) aimed at ensuring weapons The U.S.-trained head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, provided a military analogy to explain the readiness of his agency to take the next step in uranium enrichment: “We are like soldiers and our fingers are on the trigger,” Salehi told Iranian state TV. “The commander gives the order and we shoot. We are ready for this and we will produce [20 percent enriched uranium] as soon as possible. “He said that if further enrichment is to proceed, the natural uranium in the centrifuges at Fordow must be replaced with material enriched to 4 percent. “It should be done under IAEA supervision,” added Salehi. In the mountains near the holy city of Qom, about 90 km southwest of Tehran, Fordow is located.