On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament approved a bill that outlines a plan to counter US sanctions. The legislation calls for Iran to violate more terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if Iran is not provided relief from US sanctions.
The move comes after the death of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in what appears to have been an Israeli plot that could have had US support.
The bill would give European signatories to the JCPOA one month to ease sanctions on Iran’s energy sectors and restore access to the international banking system. Parliament Speaker Mohmmad Baqer Ghalibaf said Iranian lawmakers were “hopeful to remove sanctions through this stern decision.”
If the European powers do not work to ease the damage being done to Iran’s economy, the Islamic Republic will further violate commitments it agreed to under the JCPOA. The bill calls for suspending UN inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and enriching uranium up to 20 percent for “peaceful purposes.”
After the US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 by reimposing sanctions, Iran remained in full compliance for an entire year after, hoping the remaining signatories could offset US sanctions. In June 2019, Iran announced it would be gradually violating the terms of the deal.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report detailing violations of the JCPOA. The IAEA said Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium reached 2,442.2 kg, which is 12 times the amount allowed under the deal of 202.8kg. The uranium is only being enriched at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than the 3.67 percent permitted under the JCPOA and vastly lower than the 90 percent needed for weapons-grade.
Before the JCPOA was signed, the highest Iran’s uranium enrichment reached was 20 percent, the same amount the new bill calls for. This is not an arbitrary number. The Tehran Research Reactor, which was built by the US in 1967, requires uranium fuel enriched at 20 percent to run. With the fuel enriched at 20 percent, the Tehran Research Reactor can produce medical isotopes, which can be used for things like radiation therapy and advanced medical imaging.
While the bill was overwhelmingly approved by Iran’s parliament, it does not mean it will become law. Parliament spokesman Ali Rabiei acknowledged that nuclear decisions are under the authority of the Supreme National Security Council.
But if Iran does adopt the strategy, it will likely be hyped by the US as the Islamic Republic racing to develop a nuclear bomb. But in reality, the plan would be another calculated transparent effort by Iran to gain leverage for sanctions relief and boost its domestic industries in the meantime.