Iran can resume 20 percent uranium enrichment within two days using new enrichment machines the country has developed, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has said. Behrouz Kamalvandi further warned that if the Trump administration cancels the 2015 nuclear agreement, Tehran will further enhance the scope of its nuclear enrichment capabilities.
“If we want to do 20 percent enrichment, we can do so in less than 48 hours. Using our new machines, we can increase the speed of enrichment,” he was quoted by Iranian media outlets as saying. Kamalvandi also rejected Washington’s demand that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment enshrined in the nuclear accord should be made permanent. “It will remain a dream for America,” he added. Furthermore, he said that building nuclear reactors for ships is also now on the government’s agenda. The AEOI spokesman played down the Trump administration’s threat to abandon the deal, reasoning that Washington would have already walked away from it if it afforded to do so.
Comment: It is not the first time that Iranian officials threaten to resume high-level enrichment if Washington cancels the deal. President Hassan Rouhani and AEOI Head Ali Akbar Salehi have made similar remarks in the past – emphasizing that Tehran has maintained its capability to resume 20 percent enrichment if the deal falls apart. “They were insisting we shut down Fordo,” Salehi said last year, adding that preserving such a capability has significant messages both in technical and professional terms. “America’s new statesmen should know that the failed experience of sanction and coercion brought their previous administrations to the negotiating table. If they are inclined to repeat that experience, we will return to a more advanced situation than the pre-negotiation one – not in a matter of weeks and months, but within hours and days,” Rouhani said in a speech to the Iranian Parliament as he was introducing his new cabinet nominees last August.
The rising tension between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s ballistic missile activity and destabilizing role in the region has put the future of the Iran nuclear deal in serious doubt. In January, President Trump continued sanctions waiver for Iran as part of the nuclear deal, but warned that he would not do when the deadline approaches in the next four months unless European countries and US Congress “fix” the deal’s loopholes. Curbing Iran’s ballistic missile program, making restrictions on Iran’s enrichment activities permanent, allowing international inspectors to visit Iran’s military sites, and restraining Tehran’s growing influence in the region were Trump’s key demands. Tehran has rejected talks over any of these issues.
Iran’s work on the development of nuclear-powered ships, as the AEOI’s spokesman noted, is set to create another tension between Tehran and Washington.