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Source: The Guardian

Jul 2, 2023

UK to breach Iran nuclear deal with refusal to lift sanctions

Decision by UK and other European powers comes amid uncertainty over future of 2015 agreement

BY Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The UK and other European powers are expected to announce plans to breach the 2015 Iran nuclear deal for the first time when they confirm they are not going to lift sanctions on Tehran’s use of missiles this October as required in the agreement.

Donald Trump took the US out of the nuclear deal in 2018, but Germany, France and the UK remained inside the deal, even though Iran responded to the US walkout by breaching the agreed limits on the quality and quantity of enriched uranium. Iran is closer to producing weapons-grade uranium than ever before.

The decision by European powers to also breach the deal represents a risk since it is not clear how Tehran will react at a time it is already close to being able to manufacture weapons-grade enriched uranium.

The justification cited by EU and British diplomats included Iran’s own breach of the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s sale of drones to Russia for use in its invasion of Ukraine, and the possible future transfers to Russia of Iran’s ballistic missiles.

The head of the UN’s nuclear weapons inspectorate, Rafael Grossi, admitted last week that an agreement on monitoring the Iranian nuclear programme had become very limited and fragmented. Iranian MPs have been objecting to the planned installation of about 10 security cameras in the centrifuge production workshop at a site in Isfahan.

The 2015 nuclear deal included a series of dates or so-called sunset clauses by which certain sanctions on entities are due to be lifted by the west, but it had not been envisaged back in 2015 that the agreement would be so widely breached. The deal capped enrichment at 3.67% but Iran has been enriching at 60%.

The EU sanctions are due to expire on 18 October under a UN resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal. The sanctions “called upon” Iran not to do anything to develop ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons.

They also barred anyone from buying, selling or transferring drones and their components capable of flying more than 300km (186 miles) to or from Iran without prior authorisation from the UN security council, permission that has not been granted.

The future of the agreement is in flux after talks in Oman between the US and Iran that focused on Iran agreeing not to enrich uranium beyond 60% in return for the west releasing billions in frozen funds, as well as some US prisoners held in Tehran.

The US state department has said no deal is imminent, but the negotiation has been clouded by the US special envoy Rob Malley being suspended without pay by the state department over the possible mishandling of confidential information. Malley has had his diplomatic security withdrawn pending an inquiry.

The planned limited agreement is threatening to become a major issue in the US, with leading Republicans denouncing the idea of a further agreement with Iran. Mike Pompeo, the former US secretary of state, speaking to a National Council of Resistance of Iran conference in Paris likened the Biden administration to a zombie for wanting to strike another deal with Iran.

“Any such deal, formal or informal, would be a calamity for the Iranian people,” he said, adding: “The despots in Tehran would ensure sanctions relief would not go to the Iranian people, but to making more drones for Russia to use against the people of Ukraine.”

John Bolton, a former US national security adviser under Trump, said: “The way to change the picture inside Iran is not to engage in further assistance to the regime and to give them another lifeline, but to cut their lifelines off and let the people’s voice be heard. The nuclear deal was a bad deal when it was made and it is never going to get better.”

The former UK prime minister Liz Truss said it was absolutely vital Iran did not acquire a nuclear weapon. She accused Tehran of “kicking the can down the road” and claimed “they are interested in some kind of settlement when meanwhile they have been developing those nuclear weapons. We cannot allow them to play for time. We must be tougher.”

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