The conflict over the international agreement to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb threatens a new escalation.
According to its nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran is now working with faster centrifuges designed to substantially speed up the uranium enrichment process. The new devices used since September are ten times faster than the old IR-1 centrifuges, whose operation has been discontinued, said Salehi, who is also Vice President of the country, on Monday in the state broadcaster Irib.
Uranium enrichment is dangerous. With the right know-how and modern centrifuges, uranium can be enriched up to 90 percent in the medium or long term, which would then also make it possible to build a nuclear bomb.
After the laboriously negotiated international nuclear agreement of 2015, the Islamic Republic can only use the older generation of centrifuges (IR-1), only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent and have no more than 300 kilograms of uranium. The uranium enrichment limited to 3.67 percent was one of the key points of the Vienna Treaty to prevent the construction of Iranian nuclear weapons.
Atomdeal injured in three points so far
The United States withdrew unilaterally from the 2015 Vienna Agreement in May 2018. Since then, Iran violated provisions of the agreement in three steps. Phase four is scheduled to start at the end of the week. Then the nuclear deal would be in acute danger.
Tehran calls for the repeal of US sanctions that have plagued the country and triggered an economic crisis. The US government wants to force the leadership in Tehran with harsh sanctions to renegotiate the agreement and to agree to tougher conditions. The remaining contractors – China, Germany, France, Great Britain and Russia – fear that Iran could withdraw altogether from the agreement and enrich uranium indefinitely.
Between 2013 and 2016 it looked like a normalization of relations. Over time, both sides took up direct negotiations at Foreign Minister level, which ultimately led to the 2015 Vienna Atomic Energy Convention.
The situation changed with the presidency of Donald Trump. He stepped out of the nuclear deal and also imposed new sanctions against Iran. Since then, the Americans are again considered arch-enemies of the Islamic Republic.
Zoltan math / EPA-EFE / REX
Maas in Hungary: "We do not think that is acceptable"
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) criticized Iran's decision to accelerate uranium enrichment. "We do not think that is acceptable," he said at a press conference in Budapest. "Ultimately, Iran is risking the future of the nuclear agreement in its entirety."
This also applies to every further step with which Teheran overrules the provisions of the Vienna Atomic Energy Agreement of 2015. No later than next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) intends to present its latest report on the Iranian nuclear program in Vienna.
Salehi announced the new steps in the nuclear dispute on the 40th anniversary of the occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. With the slogan "Down with the USA", the participants of state-organized rallies condemned the policy of the "Great Satan". At the end, a US flag was burned. The rallies were broadcast live on several television channels.
Iranian students had occupied the US Embassy in November 1979 to protest against the shooting of the ousted Shah Reza Pahlavi in the United States. The US embassy members taken hostage were released only after 444 days. Because of the embassy occupation, the US broke off diplomatic relations with Iran.