Iran has boosted its nuclear enrichment to levels not even seen before the JCPOA deal, President Hassan Rouhani has proclaimed, shortly after the Islamic Republic accused three European nations of “selling out” to the US.
“We are enriching more uranium [than] before the deal was reached ... Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress,” Rouhani said in a televised address on Thursday.
Tehran is now bound by “no restrictions on nuclear energy,” Rouhani said, as Iran is “better off in terms of nuclear power.”
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the official name of the 2015 deal – Iran had agreed to enrich uranium only up to 3.67 percent, a process typical for fuel in commercial nuclear power plants, and to stockpile no more than 300kg of this material.
Iran was meticulously sticking to the pact after the US unilaterally departed from it in May 2018, re-imposing economic sanctions and ratcheting up bellicose rhetoric against Iran, as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had repeatedly confirmed. On their part, France, Germany and the UK — the three European signatories colloquially known as the E3 — rejected to stick to Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" policy.
Later that year, Iran began to gradually be scale back its commitments, insisting that European signatories failed to do their part of the deal.
In January, Tehran vowed that it will move beyond all uranium enrichment limitations set out in the stalling accord. The dramatic decision was made in response to the assassination General Qassem Soleimani — one of Iran's most influential military leaders — in a US drone strike on Iraqi soil earlier in the month.
Upping the ante, the E3 claimed Iran has no legal grounds to do so, and triggered a clause allowing to scrutinize its compliance with the deal.
Rebuking the move by the trio, Tehran vowed "a firm response" if the Europeans' decision threaten the largely defunct accord. On the other hand, it said that throwing out enrichment limitations was based “on technical needs,” and that Iran isn’t after atomic weapons.