Iran quadruples low-enriched uranium production, beyond old accord limits: reports
Iran has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear accord, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday, an announcement just after President Donald Trump warned Iran it would face its “official end” if it threatened America again.
While the reports said the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67 per cent limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran reached with world powers, it means that Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations established by the accord.
This follows days of heightened tensions sparked by the Trump administration’s deployment of bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats from Iran. While Trump’s dueling approach of flattery and threats has become a hallmark of his foreign policy, the risks have only grown in dealing with Iran, where mistrust between Tehran and Washington stretch back four decades.
So far this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers sustained damage in a sabotage attack; Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and U.S. diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.
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All these tensions are the culmination of Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the U.S. out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. While both Washington and Tehran say they don’t seek war, many worry any miscalculation at this fraught moment could spiral out of control.
Both the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported on the quadrupled production quoting Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesmen of Iran’s nuclear agency. He said the increase in production of 3.67 per cent enriched uranium does not mean Iran increased the number of centrifuges it has in use, another requirement of the deal.
He said Iran “in weeks” would reach the 300-kilogram limit set by the nuclear deal.
Kamalvandi said Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency about its move. The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Trump’s tweet early Monday came just hours after a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, causing no injuries. Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that the rocket was believed to have been fired from eastern Baghdad. The area is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.
“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted. “Never threaten the United States again!”
Trump did not elaborate, nor did the White House.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded by tweeting that Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts.” Zarif referenced both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan as two historical leaders that Persia outlasted.
“Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone,” he wrote. He ended his tweet with: “Try respect – it works!”
He also used the hashtag #NeverThreatenAnIranian, a reference to a comment he made in negotiations for the atomic accord.
© 2019 The Canadian Press