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The Iranian government has announced that it is now operating twice as many advanced centrifuges and has claimed the move is a direct response to the U.S.’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year and reimposition of sanctions. Such centrifuges are vital to the production of enriched uranium and will enable Iran to enrich uranium at a much greater pace. Their use was banned under the joint nuclear accord that was signed in 2015 which aimed at Iranian denuclearisation. Shortly after the announcement, the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions that targeted nine individuals close to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
On Monday, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that Iran was now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges, which can enrich uranium 10 times faster than those centrifuges which were permitted under the 2015 deal. Following the application of new sanctions, no immediate response was given by the Iranian mission to the United Nations. “Today the Treasure Department is targeting the unelected officials who surround Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and implement his destabilizing policies”, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement. In reference to the recent moves by Iran, head of the U.S.-based ‘Arms Control Association’, Daryl Kimball, stated that “Iran is trying to increase the pressure on Britain, France, and Germany in particular to find some arrangement that will allow them to sell the oil they were buying when Iran was not under sanctions”.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been deteriorating ever since May 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian state. As a result, Iran announced it would gradually shirk its commitments towards denuclearisation until the U.S. decided to remove its economic sanctions and recommit to the terms of the Iran deal. The actions that were previously taken by President Obama in formulating the Iran nuclear deal signaled a positive direction towards reconciling relations with Iran. However, with the ascension of President Trump, we have witnessed a complete reversal of policy and a rapid decline in relations—something which has been greatly welcomed by Middle Eastern regional hegemonies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Evidently, in cases such as this, it is clear how negligent actions can result in a heightened risk of conflict when the U.S. administration is beholden to such foreign interests. Ultimately, it would be both wiser and safer for the global community if the U.S. were to engage in an active effort to mediate and prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation—as such proliferation may easily spark a nuclear arms race throughout the entire Middle East.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal is an agreement that was reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries (together with the European Union), which aimed at eliminating the threat of nuclear proliferation by Iran. However, with the withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement and the reinstatement of economic sanctions, Iran has also begun to rescind on its commitments. In recent months, Iran has amassed a greater stockpile than was permitted under the original nuclear deal, however, it’s stockpile is still too small to create a single bomb. Moreover, while tightening the sanctions regime on Iran, the U.S. has concurrently also left the door open for negotiations with Iran, however, the Iranian government has thus far rejected such negotiations unless the U.S. decides to lift its sanctions.
Thus, with a corresponding rise in tensions on both sides, it seems unlikely that either party will be willing to come to the negotiating table. In the case of Iran, it ought to be in the interest of the international community to cooperate with the Islamic Republic in order to prevent nuclear proliferation throughout the region. However, unfortunately, there still remain economic powers—both domestic and foreign—within the U.S. who have a vested political interest in witnessing the perpetuation of the U.S.-Iranian conflict. Despite the amicable overtures made by President Obama towards achieving peace with Iran, such progress has largely been reversed under the Trump administration.