On Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said he opposes a bill passed by parliament that outlines a plan to counter US sanctions by further violating the 2015 nuclear deal.
Rouhani said the plan would be “harmful” to diplomatic efforts meant to restore the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The bill passed through Iran’s parliament on Tuesday, a response to the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
The legislation was approved on Wednesday by Iran’s Guardian Council, a 12-member parliament oversight board that reviews bills passed in the legislature before sending them to the president’s desk. Rouhani now has five working days to decide on the bill.
The bill would give European signatories to the JCPOA two months to ease sanctions on Iran’s energy sectors and restore access to the international banking system. If the terms are not met, Iran would further violate the JCPOA by suspending UN inspections of its nuclear program and increasing uranium enrichment to 20 percent for “peaceful purposes.”
Iran currently enriches uranium at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than the 3.67 agreed to under the JCPOA but far below the 90 percent needed for weapons-grade. After the US unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, Iran waited a year, giving a chance to other signatories of the deal to ease sanctions before making minor violations.
Twenty percent enrichment would give Iran the ability to make fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, a nuclear facility built by the US in 1967 that can produce medical isotopes. The medical isotopes can be used for things like radiation therapy and advanced body scanning.
Even if Rouhani did support the legislation, if he signed the bill, it would not immediately become law. The nuclear program is under the authority of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, and decisions are ultimately made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Joe Biden reiterated this week that he plans to return to the JCPOA, a sign that all hope for diplomacy between the US and Iran is not lost. Rouhani and other Iranian officials have recently said that they can quickly come into compliance with the agreement in exchange for sanctions relief.