Iran Threatens to Further Escalate Nuclear Program Conflict with Third Step

Iran is planning new antagonistic nuclear steps.
Illustrative official meeting. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Having already increased their nuclear fuel stockpile and the quality of their nuclear fuel enrichment beyond the limits imposed under the nuclear deal, Iran is now warning that their third step in withdrawing from commitments in the deal is coming up. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted by the Fars News Agency as telling the Iranian Parliament on Saturday they would “assuredly” take that next step if the world powers fail to boost economic benefits to Iran. What that third move would be was not made clear.

The Iranians in recent months began reneging on their commitments under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), warning that they would continue to expand their nuclear program if the Europeans didn’t effectively mitigate United States’ sanctions on Iran. While the nuclear program remains solidly in the civilian range—Iran has announced 4.5% uranium enrichment quality has been achieved, whereas 90% is needed for nuclear weapons—there are threats of advancing that element further to medical research levels and even beyond.

The Fars News report noted that recently Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said there wouldn’t be “any problem” for Iran to advance to 20% enrichment quality—the level needed for medical research—and that there are “options even higher than that.” He did claim that they would act based on Iran’s needs and not just go for higher levels as a scare tactic.

Fear and threats are still in offing, however. The Fars report also quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Moussavi as calling Iran’s imposed two-month deadline for the world powers to act their “last opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the situation is so serious, Iran was the first item of interest mentioned in the press release recapping Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first call with the new leader of the United Kingdom. The statement from Netanyahu’s office said he spoke with new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston on Saturday evening and “told him that it was important to take a strong stand against Iran.”

The tensions with Iran remain very high. Iran and the US have each shot down a drone from the other’s forces, the Iranians have sabotaged the oil industry and captured foreign ships, and on Wednesday the US authorized sanctions on Foreign Minister Zarif.

A press release from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted on the US State Department website called Zarif a “key enabler” of Iran’s malignant policies and the Foreign Ministry “a means of advancing many” of those policies.

“Instead of using Iran’s precious resources to invest in the brave and rightfully proud people of Iran, the Iranian regime facilitates and supports terrorism, jails and tortures innocent Iranians, fuels foreign conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and, in recent weeks, has expanded its nuclear program,” said Pompeo in the statement.

“Foreign Minister Zarif, a senior regime official and apologist, has for years now been complicit in these malign activities.”

Despite the tensions, the US continues to extend an olive branch to Iran. “The United States continues to seek a diplomatic solution that addresses the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior,” said Pompeo. “The only path forward is a comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of its threats. Until then, our campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, August 4, 2019)

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