Iran Defies Nuclear Deal To Enrich Uranium


Recently, Iran declared its intention to enrich uranium in response to the re-imposing of US sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s oil trade. According to Al Jazeera, Iran President Hassan Rouhani said Iran began to step back their nuclear commitment following a year of US withdrawal to give time for other party to uphold their pledges under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Since July, Iran had bumped up their enriched operation from 3.67 percent to 5 percent and amassed more low-enriched uranium than the 300 kg stockpile set in the deal.

The historical nuclear deal comes after a prolong tension over Iran effort to develop nuclear weapons which Iran asserted that their nuclear program was peaceful. Under this agreement, Iran concurred to limit sensitive nuclear activities that threatened the world security and order in return of lifting economic sanction. The deal was ratified by a group of world powers such as US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. On the other hand, in 2018, US abandoned the milestone deal, due to suspicion that Iran had attacked one of US ally Saudi Arabia’s key oil facilities.

Since the imposition of a string of crippling sanctions, Iran’s economy has descended into deep recession. According to BBC news, “The IMF said in late April that it expected the Iranian economy to shrink by 6% in 2019”.  In addition, “In 2018, Iran’s crude oil production reached 3.8 million barrels per day, and by March 2019, Iran’s oil exports had fallen to 1.1 million barrels per day.” The sanctions have served to crank up inflation, pushing the value of currency downward and driving away foreign investors, provoking protests across the country. The IMF estimated that inflation will rise to 37% or more if oil exports continue to fail, according to BBC news. The cost of living in Iran has also doubled. Recently, a surge of discontent and anger among Iran’s citizens over the increasing price of petrol has intensified the protests in Iran. The protest have left two dead and several injured in the violence.

The decision to enrich uranium was made after United Stated unilaterally pulled out from the agreement last year and reimpose sanctions that debilitate Iran’s economic and trades.  Iran had denounced United States for pressuring and blocking Tehran crude oil exporting. Aljazeera News, “International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran carried out activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive device”. Currently, Iran built a second nuclear reactor at Bushehr plant which exceed the limit set out in the nuclear deal. Moreover, Iran President stated that, “We can’t unilaterally accept that we completely fulfil our commitments and they don’t follow up on their commitment”, based on Al Jazeera.

The international community have expressed concerned at the enrichment of uranium at both Fordow and Natanz site. Before 2015 deal, Iran used to produce 20 percent uranium, which was the concerning point for the international community, as Iran’s going from 20 percent to 90 of weapons-grade level will definitely pose a great threat to world peace and security. German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass insisted to use “all kind of mechanism to make Iran comply with its obligation under the nuclear deal that includes re-imposing European sanctions.” And the US, likewise, announced a “maximum pressure” policy to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement; but Iran has refused to negotiate until all the sanctions are lifted.

The crippling economic sanctions imposed by the US have encouraged Iran to enrich uranium, in defiance of its commitment in the nuclear deal. These sanctions have trapped Iran into a series of economic downturns, including inflation and loss of revenue from their oil trade. It is important for the international community to take Iran’s desires into consideration; otherwise, the world peace will be seriously threatened if Iran enriches uranium into nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

Sochea Chhay

Senior Student in International Relations at Pannasastra University of Cambodia