Iran has declared that it has increased its uranium enrichment to approximately 4.5%, exceeding the 3.67% cap agreed on under its 2015 deal with major powers. The move marks the second time that Iran has deviated from the agreement since Tehran exceeded the limit for its low-enrichment uranium stockpile set under the accord with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and, initially, the United States a week earlier.
The move could open the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons on a step-by-step basis, raising fears that it could turn the framework for the nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers into a mere facade.
Iran’s action should be regarded as brinkmanship targeting European countries that have essentially backed Tehran. After being slapped with a series of severe sanctions by the United States, Iran asked Britain, France and Germany — parties to the nuclear deal — for economic assistance. However, after failing to gain relief measures to make up for embargoes on importing Iranian oil, Iran moved to shake Europe.
It is plain to see that the Iranian economy has been battered. Iran has seen a drastic reduction in its oil exports, which its economy relies heavily upon, and faces a foreign currency shortage. Moreover, consumer prices have skyrocketed as a result of currency depreciation and inflation, dealing a serious blow to citizens’ livelihoods.
However, is it wise for Iran to go back on its agreement and threaten Europe in a bid to gain benefits? European countries and businesses cannot conduct trade and other deals with Iran even if they wish to, for fear of possible sanctions by the United States. Britain, France and Germany have been perplexed by Iran’s tough stance.
If Britain, France, Germany Russia and China, parties to the agreement, were to officially recognize that Iran’s acts violated the accord, the 4-year-old framework would collapse. Such a move could prompt the U.N. Security Council to revive sanctions that had been imposed on Iran before the agreement was reached, isolating the country from the rest of the world again.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei clearly told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month that Tehran will never produce, possess or use nuclear arms. President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran can reduce uranium enrichment to a level below the upper limit within an hour and that the country has no intention of making the nuclear accord collapse.
If so, it would be wiser for Tehran to abandon its brinkmanship, which is only heightening tensions, and exercise self-restraint. The country should not choose to isolate itself from the international community.
The crisis was originally triggered by the U.S. government of President Donald Trump, which unilaterally pulled Washington out of the nuclear deal, though the accord was recognized by the international community. Tehran had abided by the deal until Washington withdrew from it.
The United States is threatening to impose additional sanctions on Iran, but the matter is not one in which a country outside the framework should intervene.
Every possible effort should be made to prevent the collapse of the nuclear deal, which is aimed at stabilizing Iran and easing tensions in the Middle East.