Iranian Threats on Uranium Enrichment Highlight Critical Weakness of Nuclear Deal, Prominent Advocate Says
The president of the leading US advocacy group countering Iranian nuclear ambitions has charged that recent inflammatory statements by the head of the Tehran regime’s atomic energy agency underlined a “major shortcoming” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the July 2015 nuclear deal agreed to by six world powers.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, stated on Tuesday that the regime would need only five days to resume high-level uranium enrichment in the event of the JCPOA’s collapse. Such a statement, said David Ibsen — the president of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) — was “a clear and unfortunate reminder of a major shortcoming in the JCPOA, namely that Iran retained significant nuclear-related capabilities while receiving sanctions relief upfront”
“A good deal (in 2015) would have ensured the complete cessation of all enrichment and nuclear research activities indefinitely,” Ibsen told The Algemeiner.
Salehi’s comments came as the survival of the deal teeters between repeated statements from President Donald Trump that Iran has “violated the spirit of the deal,” and Iranian fury over new US sanctions that target in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“If we make the determination (to abandon the JCPOA), we are able to resume 20 percent-enrichment in at most five days,” Salehi told state broadcaster IRIB. Salehi added that the site of these enrichment activities would be the Fordow underground plant — a former IRGC base that was revealed by Western intelligence agencies in 2009 as having been turned into an enrichment facility.
Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran’s uranium enrichment is capped at 5 percent. Uranium enriched at 20 percent or above starts to yield the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) needed for a nuclear weapon, although the enrichment level needed for weapons grade material is much higher, at about 90 percent.
Saleh’s threat to the JCPOA followed a similar warning from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week. Recently elected to a second term in office, Rouhani signaled his approval of Salehi by reappointing him as head of the Atomic Energy Organization.
Ibsen acknowledged that the remarks of both Rouhani and Salehi might primarily be meant for domestic consumption. “Even if that’s the case, it is nonetheless troubling that Iran is even in a position to realistically and rapidly ramp up its nuclear program just a little over two years after the JCPOA was agreed,” he noted.