Iran faces one-week deadline to end its ‘nuclear blackmail’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, second left, during the ‘nuclear technology day’ in Tehran on April 9, 2019. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019

Iran faces one-week deadline to end its ‘nuclear blackmail’

  • Threat of new UN sanctions unless Tehran halts drive to increase uranium enrichment
  • President Hassan Rouhani’s order to exceed the threshold would be implemented “in a few hours

TEHRAN: Iran faces a one-week deadline of July 15 to end its “nuclear blackmail” or risk snapback global sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Tehran said on Sunday it would enrich uranium beyond the 3.67 percent limit set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Tehran also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the landmark 2015 agreement.

Daniel Byman, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, said Iran was engaged in a tricky balancing act.

“The step is meant to show domestic audiences that Iran is standing up to US pressure. It is also meant to convey a sense of risk to European audiences that Iran may provoke a crisis,” he said.

In a coordinated response, other signatories to the JCPOA — the UK, France, Germany and the EU — issued separate statements with identical wording. They urged Iran to “immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations,” and added: “We are coordinating with other JCPOA participants regarding the next steps under the terms of the deal.”

The “next step” is triggering the JCPOA dispute resolution mechanism. A spokesman for French President Emmanuel Macron said this would not happen immediately, but the French government was setting a deadline of July 15 for constructive progress with Iran.

Failure by Tehran to meet its obligations will begin a 65-day process that ends at the UN Security Council, and the snapback of sanctions imposed by all previous UN resolutions.

 

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Tehran could further scale back its commitments, but “all such steps are reversible” if European countries deliver on their part.

The move to start enriching uranium above the agreed maximum purification level of 3.67 percent comes despite opposition from the European Union and the United States, which has quit the deal.

President Hassan Rouhani’s order to exceed the threshold would be implemented “in a few hours” after the last technical details were sorted, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said live on state television.

Germany said it strongly urged Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments.

"We are in contact with the other JCPoA participants regarding the next steps," a German foreign office spokesman said.

The UK foreign ministry issued a similar statement, adding that "Iran must immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's actions would only leave it facing further sanctions and isolation.

Donald Trump repeated his warning that Iran would never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

Rouhani initially flagged Tehran’s intentions on May 8, exactly a year on from US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoning the multilateral deal.
He has said the move is in response to a failure by remaining parties to keep their promise to help Iran work around biting sanctions reimposed by the US in the second half of last year.
The arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words with Washington blaming Iran for a series of attacks on tanker ships and Tehran shooting down an American surveillance drone, raising fears of a conflict that both sides have said they want to avoid.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Sunday singled out Iran’s declining oil sales and the effect of financial sanctions as the main issues that needed to be solved, or Tehran would further step back from its nuclear commitments.
“We hope we can reach a solution otherwise after 60 days we will take the third step as well,” he said, adding that Tehran would give further details at an “opportune moment.”


Iran has previously threatened to also resume building as of July 7 a heavy water reactor — capable of one day producing plutonium — in Arak in central Iran, a project that had been mothballed under the agreement.
However since Iran delivered its ultimatum on the Arak reactor “good technical progress” had been made with parties to the deal on modernizing the reactor, convincing Iran to postpone its decision, Araghchi said.
The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia — and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fueling a deep recession.
It is not yet clear how far Iran will boost enrichment.
But a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.
Iran says that it is not violating the deal, citing terms of the agreement allowing one side to temporarily abandon some of commitments if it deems the other side is not respecting its part of the accord.
The diplomatic chiefs of Britain, France, Germany and the EU said earlier in the week that they were “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to breach some of its commitments.
Trump, meanwhile, has warned Iran that it is “playing with fire.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday’s announcement a “very dangerous step” and called on France, Britain and Germany to impose “harsh sanctions” on Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Rouhani of his “strong concern” over the risk of weakening the nuclear agreement during a telephone call Saturday, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.
However, Macron pledged to “explore by July 15 the conditions for a resumption of dialogue between all parties,” the statement said.
Iran says it exercised “strategic patience” for a year after the US withdrawal, waiting for the other signatories to make good on promised economic benefits.
But on May 8, Tehran announced it would no longer respect two key limits — a 1.3-ton maximum for heavy water reserves and a cap of 300 kilogrammes on its low-enriched uranium stockpile.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has scheduled a special meeting on Iran’s nuclear program for July 10.
 


Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

Updated 21 January 2020

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

LONDON: An academic currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage has reportedly refused an offer to become a spy for Tehran in return for her freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a UK-Australian dual national, made the revelation in a series of letters handed to The Times that were smuggled out of Evin prison, located in the north of the capital, where she is serving 10 years.

In the letters, addressed separately to a Mr. Vasiri, believed to be a deputy prosecutor in the Iranian judiciary, and a Mr. Ghaderi and Mr. Hosseini, who are thought to be officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Moore-Gilbert stated in basic Farsi that she had “never been a spy, and I have no intention to work for a spying organization in any country.” 

She added: “Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the IRGC.”

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was arrested in 2018 after attending a conference in Tehran. 

She was tried and convicted in secret, and her letters implied that she had been kept in solitary confinement in a wing of Evin prison under the IRGC’s control.

It is reportedly the same wing being used to detain UK-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also incarcerated for espionage, and away from the all-female cellblock that Moore-Gilbert was meant to have been housed in.

The letters catalog a series of other mistreatments and inhumane conditions, suggesting she had been permitted no contact with her family, and that, having been denied access to vital medication, her health was deteriorating.

She also suggested that she had been subjected to sleep deprivation methods, with lights in her cell kept on 24 hours per day, and that she was often blindfolded when transported. 

“It is clear that IRGC Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in India last week, where the case was discussed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement claiming that the country would not “submit to political games and propaganda” over the issue.

This comes at a time when international pressure has ratcheted up on the regime in Tehran following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital on Jan. 8. 

Mass demonstrations nationwide followed the news that the plane had been shot down by Iranian forces. 

Olympian defects to Germany

Meanwhile, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced that she would not return to the country, citing her refusal to continue to be used as a “propaganda tool.”

She wrote of her decision on Instagram: “I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

It was revealed on Jan. 20 that the taekwondo martial artist, who had been living and training in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, had elected to move to Hamburg in Germany, for whom she will now compete.

Alizadeh’s defection is just one in a series of high-profile acts of defiance by Iranians outraged by the actions of the regime.

At least two journalists working for Iranian state-owned TV channels are known to have resigned their positions in protest.

One, news anchor Gelare Jabbari, posted on Instagram: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”