Iran on Wednesday informed signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal that it no longer plans to adhere to certain "voluntary commitments" made in the accord.
The decision comes after the US dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East to send a "clear and unmistakable" message to Tehran.
What Iran said
- Iran says it will stop curbing its stocks of enriched uranium and the "heavy water" needed by certain types of reactor to ensure that nuclear fission can take place;
- Tehran informed the governments of Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia about its plans by letter on Wednesday, according to state media;
- Iran said it would start resuming high level uranium enrichment if, after 60 days, the signatory states failed to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors from sanctions;
- The country will stay within the terms of the 2015 nuclear treaty, but will revive some nuclear activity that was halted.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that, if the deadline passed without better terms, Iran would once again begin higher enrichment of uranium.
"If the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal," Rouhani said.
However, Rouhani warned of a "strong reaction" if European leaders instead sought to impose more sanctions on Iran via the UN Security Council.
Read more: US policy spreads gloom in Iran
How has Europe reacted? Germany and France have both said they remain committed to the Iran nuclear deal. However, European countries may consider sanctions if Iran breaches the terms of the deal.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday that Germany wanted to preserve the nuclear deal, which was why it was important Iran adhere to its terms.
What are Iran's commitments under the deal? The restrictions in place are aimed at slowing Iran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb. These include: capping the stock and levels of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium; implementing constraints at two enrichments centers; restricting the use of centrifuges and reducing the ability to produce plutonium.
What's the backdrop? Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the US pulling out of the nuclear deal. This week, the US deployed an aircraft carrier, the USS Lincoln, along with a bomber task force to the Middle East to counter a "credible threat by Iranian regime forces."
Washington has ramped up sanctions against Iran in recent months, and has designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Iran's neighbor Iraq on Tuesday to discuss the safety of Americans there, and explain US security concerns amid rising Iranian activity.
The 2015 deal saw sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for limits on its nuclear operations. Since then, the US has withdrawn from the deal and restored crippling sanctions.
Iran-Russia bloc: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov Wednesday. Zarif alleged that, while China and Russia had supported Iran over the nuclear deal, the EU signatories had failed to do so. Lavrov told reporters that the signatories were making it hard for Iran to fulfil its obligations.
"President Putin has repeatedly spoken of the consequences of unthought-out steps regarding Iran and by that I mean the decision taken by Washington (to quit the deal). Now we are seeing those consequences are starting to happen," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
Zarif said he could guarantee the nuclear deal's survival if European signatories fulfilled their obligations: "Russia and China fulfilled their obligations," he said in Moscow. "But other parties, including the Europeans, have not been honoring their commitments."
rc/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)