Published: Thu, May 09, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Iran inches away from nuclear deal amid U.S. sanctions

Iran inches away from nuclear deal amid U.S. sanctions

According to Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Tehran's backtracking on the agreement was due to external pressure.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani plans to declare his country's "partial termination" of the nuclear deal with major powers on Wednesday, according to two Iranian news agencies.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the three European Union countries part of the JCPOA deal-France, Germany, and the UK-said over the weekend that they "take note with regret and concern of the decision by the United States not to extend waivers with regards to trade in oil with Iran".

Iran's hard-line Javan newspaper, associated with the Revolutionary Guard, said Wednesday would "ignite the matchstick for burning the deal".

The deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region of responsibility represented "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces", Shanahan tweeted Monday.

And he threatened that in 60 days Iran would resume enrichment of uranium beyond the low level permitted under the deal, unless the five other powers signed up to it find a way to protect Iran's oil and banking industries from USA sanctions.

The move comes a year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal, over the stringent objections of other signatories.

The looming total ban on oil sales is likely to sharply increase the economic hardship for Iran's 80 million people, and finding a response is the biggest test yet for Rouhani, a pragmatist who has faced strong opposition from the hardline faction of Iran's leadership throughout his six years in office.

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However, Rouhani warned of a "strong reaction" if European leaders instead seek to impose more sanctions on Iran via the U.N. Security Council.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear arms Wednesday, hours after Iran declared it would step up enrichment activity as the 2015 nuclear deal appeared close to crumbling. A USA official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said American troops at land and sea could be targeted.

"We have continued to see activity that leads us to believe that there's escalation that may be taking place", Pompeo said.

Currently, the accord limits Iran to enriching uranium to 3.67 per cent, which can fuel a commercial nuclear power plant. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to around 90%.

However, once a country enriches uranium to around 20 per cent, scientists say the time needed to reach 90 per cent is halved.

The Wall Street Journal cited European diplomats as saying that Iran may ramp up research into centrifuges that could produce highly enriched uranium more quickly. Iran has previously enriched to 20%.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif said Iran would be partially withdrawing from the 2015 agreement. No significant US forces have so far withdrawn from Syria.

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