Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday his country would end its compliance with two particular conditions of the country’s nuclear deal.
It comes exactly one year after President Donald Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the deal that has since been on life support as European, Russian and Chinese signatories endeavor to save it.
Rouhani did not signal the end of deal entirely, but gave Europe an ultimatum: It will have 60 days to either follow the Trump administration or resume oil trade with Iran to save the agreement, violating U.S. sanctions.
“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. “But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.”
Starting Wednesday, Iran will keep unspent enriched uranium instead of selling it, which it had been doing under the stipulations of the 2015 nuclear deal. This will help build its store of low enriched uranium and heavy water, which are used in nuclear reactors.
If Europe does not step up to save the deal and protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions, Rouhani said, it will restart construction of its Arak nuclear reactor, which was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium and had been shut down as part of the 2015 deal.
Iran’s level of uranium enrichment is said to be currently at just over 3%, as allowed under the nuclear deal for power generation. Enrichment needs to be at around 90% in order to build a bomb, from which Iran remains a long way away, experts say. But governments in the West fear Iran’s atomic program could allow it to eventually build nuclear weapons, something at international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN said was being effectively prevented by the 2015 deal.
Trump administration officials have warned of “troubling and escalatory threats” coming from Iran in recent days; on Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the deployment of a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Persian Gulf to send an “unmistakable message to the Iranian regime” against the use of force against U.S. interests.
Shortly thereafter, military experts and analysts pointed out that the ship’s deployment to the region was likely routine and long-planned, with many speculating that the White House was using that as an opportunity to intimidate the Iranian regime.
The Iranian nuclear deal, enacted under the Obama administration along with Germany, France, the U.K., Russia and China, saw financial sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program.
Since Washington’s withdrawal last year and subsequent re-imposition of sanctions on numerous sectors of Iran’s economy, most significantly its oil exports, the Islamic Republic’s economy has fallen into deep recession. Its currency has tanked, scores of international companies have left the country and Iranians are struggling to afford basic goods.
For the Trump administration, the deal did not go far enough to address what it calls Iran’s malign behavior, including its support of proxy militant groups around the region, ballistic missile testing, and human rights abuses.
Rouhani’s announcement also comes just days after Washington allowed sanctions waivers on eight major Iranian oil importing countries to expire, putting further pressure on Tehran’s main source of revenue as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign.