0228 GMT August 18, 2022
The spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said on Monday evening that the order has been issued for the launch of hundreds of new centrifuges and injecting gas into their cascades in line with implementing a law passed by the Iranian Parliament in December 2020 to counter U.S. sanctions and safeguard people’s interests within the framework of a 2015 nuclear deal.
Behrouz Kamalvandi added the move was aimed at increasing the country’s uranium enrichment to 190,000 SWUs, which is the rock-bottom of the country’s need, noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also been informed of the new measure.
He said launching other centrifuges is also on the AEOI’s agenda.
A day later, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian explained the move more explicitly, saying the launch of the new centrifuges was Iran’s response to the U.S. imposition of new sanctions against the country ahead of the new round of the negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna on the revival of the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On Monday, while it was believed that consultations are being held for the resumption of the nuclear talks in Vienna, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions against six companies and one tanker on the pretext of having contacts with Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company.
Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement on Monday, “Until such time as Iran is ready to return to full implementation of its commitments, we will continue to enforce sanctions on the illicit sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals.”
The sanctioned companies are located in the UAE, China, Singapore and Malaysia and the Glory Harvest tanker operates under Panama’s flag.
Iran maintains that the imposition of the new sanctions, or as worded by Amir-Abdollahian, the U.S. “mania for imposing new sanctions”, is in contradiction with President Joe Biden’s claims of having goodwill and intending to return to the JCPOA and reach an agreement.
Prior to Washington’s recent hostile move, the United States, along with the E3 group of France, Germany and Britain, had submitted an anti-Tehran resolution to the IAEA’s Board of Governors, which was adopted subsequently, in a move described by Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi as contrary to the trust-building process.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Amir-Abdollahian pointed to the IAEA’s resolution, saying, “We gave our decisive response to the American side at that time.”
Iran’s reaction to the resolution was turning off the IAEA surveillance cameras at its nuclear facilities that were working beyond the scopes of the safeguards agreements.
Turning to the new sanctions, he said, “We are once again witness to U.S. mania for imposing sanctions, which are merely a show and fail to have any tangible impact on the ground. In response to Washington’s action, we have begun injecting gas into hundreds of new-generation centrifuges. The Americans shouldn’t think that, through resorting to such measures, they can extract concessions from us at the negotiating table.”
The U.S. administration’s decision to impose new sanctions against Iran ahead of the next rounds of nuclear talks has cast doubts on its willingness to reach an agreement. Returning to the JCPOA was one of the main campaign promises of Joe Biden during the presidential election. But now that nearly two years have passed since Biden has taken office, the White House is still dragging its feet on reviving the JCPOA. Moreover, his administration has taken contradicting positions over the years. On the one hand, it expressed willingness to rejoin the deal, and, on the other hand, it took destructive measures on the agenda that sparked new disputes between the negotiating delegations.
Last week, the European Union's Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell drafted a new proposal that would allegedly both safeguard Iran’s interests and ease concerns about Tehran’s nuclear activities. He warned, however, that should Iran and the U.S. fail to reach an agreement, a dangerous nuclear crisis awaits the world.
In response to the new draft, Iran's chief negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani declared that Tehran has shared its proposed ideas, both in substance and form. Baqeri also expressed readiness to swiftly conclude the negotiation, should the other side be ready to do the same.
Baqeri’s position had twofold messages for the world. For one thing, Iran has welcomed the European Union’s new draft, but for another, the other side must take into account Tehran’s proposed methods of addressing its rightful demands.
Over on the U.S. side, even though the Americans have claimed to consider Borrell’s draft, the new sanctions that they imposed ahead of the upcoming round of talks have left a large question mark for the negotiating delegations, experts, and the media alike.
If the White House was sincere in expressing its willingness to revive the JCPOA, then it seems that the United States’ destructive measures such as imposing new sanctions and proposing an anti-Iran resolution in the IAEA were aimed at winning more concessions in the negotiation. The U.S. has adopted this policy time and time again, creating hindrances in the negotiations each time.
Witnessing this pattern for years, Iran, on the other hand, has now moved on from its previous policy of waiting and keeping quiet, adopting the strategy of reciprocal action. As the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told the Al-Mayadeen news network, “As soon as the other side returns to its commitments, we will fulfill our obligations under the nuclear deal.”