The top Iranian nuclear official has warned that Washington wants to “annihilate” the nuclear deal and blame Iran for it, the Iranian media reported. “America is seeking to make Iran pay the price for the annulment of the JCPOA,” Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers in 2015. He further claimed that the Trump administration believes that the nuclear deal cannot be implemented, adding that Iran will “respond as necessary in an intelligent manner.” The Iranian nuclear negotiator reiterated that the country can resume 20 percent nuclear enrichment at Fordow facility within days. “At Natanz [nuclear facility], 5,060 machines are operational. And at Fordow, we can quickly put into operation two cascades totaling 320 machines within four days and add two more cascades to them within a week or two in order to produce 20 percent enrichment.”
Comment: It is not the first time that Salehi has threatened that Iran will resume high-level enrichment if Washington fails to adhere to its JCPOA commitments. He has made similar remarks in the past. “They were insisting we shut down Fordo,” Salehi said in August, adding that preserving such a capability has significant messages both in technical and professional terms, and maintained that “the other side” knows it. He concluded by saying that Iran prefers to stick to the deal but not at any cost, warning that the Islamic Republic’s response would “surprise” the violators of the accord.
President Hassan Rouhani has expressed a similar view. “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,” the Iranian president said in a speech to the Iranian Parliament as he was introducing his new cabinet nominees in August.
The rising tension between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s ballistic missile activity and support for terrorism has put the future of the Iran nuclear deal in serious doubt. Last month, President Trump decertified the nuclear deal and slapped new sanctions against Iran. It is now up to Congress to decide whether to keep the Iran deal or reinstate pre-2015 sanctions on Iran and kill the deal. Trump has also threatened that if Congress fails to fix the loopholes within the deal – such as sunset provisions that allow Iran to resume enrichment after a decade – he will “terminate” the accord.
Iranian leaders have made it clear in the past that Tehran will not renegotiate the nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers. Recently, Tehran has stepped up diplomacy with other five signatories of the nuclear accord – Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China – to pressure Trump not to annul the deal.