Iran nuclear deal
July 10, 2019

During an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday, the American ambassador accused Iran of "nuclear extortion," after President Trump promised further sanctions against the country.

Tehran has started stockpiling and enriching uranium, breaking the limit set by the nuclear deal it reached with major world powers. There is "no credible reason for Iran to expand its nuclear program, and there is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community." Jackie Wolcott, the U.S. ambassador, said. If Iran wants sanctions relief, it must come "through negotiations, not nuclear extortion," she added.

On Twitter Wednesday morning, Trump wrote that sanctions against Iran will "soon be increased, substantially!" The United States and Iran have both said they are willing to start negotiations again, with Tehran demanding Washington remove sanctions on its oil exports and rejoin the nuclear deal Trump walked away from in 2018, and the U.S. saying it must do whatever it takes to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program. Catherine Garcia

July 6, 2019

Iran is ready to enrich its uranium beyond the limits of the 2015 nuclear pact, unless European leaders offer Tehran more concessions.

On Saturday, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a video message that the Islamic Republic is prepared to breach the pact after Iran bolstered its stockpile of uranium last week. The message comes just ahead of a Sunday deadline Iran set for European countries to offer new terms in light of recently-imposed U.S. sanctions. If Europe does go along with the sanctions, Velayati said, "every component of the establishment" has agreed to boost uranium enrichment levels, citing the fact that the U.S. failed to hold up its end of the bargain when Washington left the agreement last year.

But Uranium enrichment is not the only thing stirring up trouble between Tehran and Europe.

In related news, Mohammad Ali Mousavi Jazayeri, a member of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful religious body in Iran, said on Saturday that the United Kingdom "should be scared" of Iran's retaliatory measures after the seizure of an Iranian supertanker in Gibraltar by the British navy on Thursday. "We have shown that we will never remain silent over bullying," he said.

A British-flagged oil tanker came to a halt in the Persian Gulf, but Iran quickly denied reports that it had seized the ship in retaliation. Hours later, a U.K. Maritime Trade Operations official told Reuters that the tanker is "safe and well," further dispelling any suspicion. Tim O'Donnell

July 3, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran will enrich uranium above the 3.67 percent level agreed to in a multinational nuclear pact beginning Sunday if its European partners don't step up with a deal to work around punishing U.S. sanctions. "In any amount that we want, any amount that is required, we will take over 3.67," Rouhani said in a televised Cabinet meeting. On Monday, Iran and United Nations nuclear monitors confirmed that Tehran had enriched more than the 660 pounds of uranium allowed in the nuclear deal.

Iran's enriching of more uranium at higher potency would decrease the window of time it would take to create a nuclear weapon, something Iran denies it has any intention to do. Currently, Iran's window is about a year. On Tuesday, European nations urged Iran to "reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal." President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal and has been working to undermine it, arguing that it did not do enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Peter Weber

June 17, 2019

Iran said Monday that it will exceed the limits on stockpiled low-enriched uranium set up under a 2015 nuclear deal unless European signatories find a way to work around U.S. sanctions within 10 days. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's atomic agency, said Iran has already accelerated its production of uranium and could soon begin enriching it to up to 20 percent, far above the 3.67 percent limit in the deal and significantly closer to the 90 percent enrichment considered weapons-grade. Speaking at Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, Kamalvandi said the country was on track to exceed the deal's 660-pound limit on low-enriched uranium by July 27.

Iran had previously given the Europeans until July 7 to come up with a plan to salvage the deal, which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from and has chipped away at for two years, and Monday's announcement coincides with a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. Britain, France, German, China, and Russia have stuck with the deal despite efforts to undermine it by President Trump and his administration. Along with punishing sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors, those efforts included the recent withdrawal of waivers that had allowed Iran to sell excess uranium and heavy water to other countries or store it abroad. Peter Weber

May 8, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran will partially withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal signed with the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China, one year after President Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the agreement. Rouhani said Iran is not withdrawing from the deal but reducing its "commitments," starting with no longer exporting its excess uranium and heavy water from its civilian nuclear program. "This surgery is to save the (deal), not destroy it," Rouhani said.

If Iran and the five other remaining signatories to the deal can't fix it within 60 days to get around U.S. measure to isolate Iran, Iran will resume enriching uranium above the 3.67 percent enshrined in the deal and "stop compliance with its other undertakings in consequent phases," Iran's Supreme National Security Council said in a statement. But, Rouhani said, "if the five countries join negotiations and help Iran to reach its benefits in the field of oil and banking, Iran will return to its commitments according to the nuclear deal."

The deal reduced Iran's low-enriched uranium stockpile to 660 lbs, from 22,046 lbs. of higher-enriched uranium beforehand. Last week, the Trump administration revoked waivers allowing it to trade its excess enriched uranium to Russia and sell extra heavy water to Oman, "effectively forcing Iran to halt enrichment or ignore the limits, which it is now doing," CNN notes. Rouhani blamed U.S. "hardliners" for the situation, saying the 2015 nuclear deal is "in the interests of the region and the world, but not the enemies of Iran, therefore they spared no effort since 2015 to undermine" it.

Trump's team has also hit Iran with all the nuclear-related sanctions lifted under the agreement, ended waivers for countries buying Iranian crude oil, recently designated Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, and announced Sunday that it is sending more battleships into the Persian Gulf to respond to a purported Iranian threat. Peter Weber

May 19, 2018

European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Canete announced in Tehran Friday that the European Union will protect from U.S. sanctions European companies that continue to do business with Iran despite President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

This move comes at the behest of Iran deal signatories France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which have sought to preserve the deal after America's exit. "We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the agreement the Europeans will ... fulfill their commitment," Canete said. "And they said the same thing on the other side."

"We hope [the EU's] efforts materialize," said Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, because "America's actions ... show that it is not a trustworthy country in international dealings." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran will stay in the deal as long as Iranian interests are "guaranteed by its non-American signatories ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran." Bonnie Kristian

May 7, 2018

President Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon that he will announce his "decision on the Iran Deal" Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.

Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China, and Germany, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump, who has called the deal "ridiculous" and said several times he will pull out, has until May 12 to decide whether he's going to withdraw from it or not.

When French President Emmanuel Macron visited the U.S. last month, Trump said he wanted a new deal with "solid foundations," and while Macron has urged Trump to stay in the pact, he said he "bet" Trump would withdraw. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday his country is "prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week." Catherine Garcia

May 1, 2018

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a big show of unveiling what he called proof that Iran "lied" about its nuclear program, showing a wall of compact discs he said prove Iran had a nuclear weapons program, called Project Amad, that it shelved in 2003 — 12 years before Iran signed its nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the deal, said Iran did not "shelve its nuclear ambitions," but he offered no proof and took no questions.

The White House released a statement saying Israel's intelligence confirms what the U.S. already knows, that "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world." It then issued a second statement changing "has" to "had," effectively confirming that Iran no longer has a nuclear weapons program. A White House official told NBC News that a "clerical error" was to blame for the wrong verb tense being used. James Fallows, who worked in the Carter White House, compared that "error" to "a surgeon amputating the wrong leg."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has "known about this material for a while" and he had discussed it with Netanyahu, but when asked if it shows Iran violating the nuclear agreement, as Netanyahu claimed, he said, "I'll leave that to the lawyers." In his April 12 Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo, then CIA director, had said he has "seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today." Under the 2015 deal, Tehran cannot make nuclear fuel until 2030 and it has agreed never to make nuclear weapons. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency have had similar proof that Iran used to have a nuclear weapons program since at least 2008.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi dismissed "Netanyahu's show" as "a childish and ridiculous game" timed "to affect Trump's decision on Iran's nuclear deal" by May 12. A senior Israeli official tells The New York Times that Israel believes President Trump will pull out of the Iran deal so Netanyahu's presentation was to "support" Trump, not "pressure" him. Peter Weber

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