Iran announced Wednesday that it is scaling back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal and will begin enriching uranium at a higher level if the five world powers remaining in the agreement fail to shield it from U.S. sanctions.
Speaking on the one year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, president Hassan Rouhani announced that the country would begin stockpiling enriched uranium rather than selling it abroad, since such sales are prohibited under U.S. sanctions.
Rouhani gave the countries remaining in the deal — France, Germany, Russia, China and the UK — 60 days to establish a strategy to navigate around stringent U.S. banking and trade sanctions. If they fail to meet the deadline, Rouhani threatened to begin enriching uranium at levels currently prohibited under the agreement.
“After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue,” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted.
“We do not want to leave the agreement. All the people of the world should know that today is not the end of the JCPOA; it is a new step within the framework of the JCPOA,” President Rouhani said, referring to the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
France’s defense minister, during an interview with French media, encouraged Iran to remain in the deal and predicted the nation could face more sanctions if it chose to withdraw.
“Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement,” Florence Parly told BFM TV.
China and Russia, meanwhile, blamed Iran’s hostility on the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, which was originally spearheaded by then-vice president Joe Biden.
The announcement comes after national security adviser John Bolton announced Sunday night that the U.S. dispatched a carrier strike group to the Middle East in response to “specific and credible” reports that suggested Iranian and proxy forces were preparing to attack U.S. forces in the region. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unplanned trip to Iraq Tuesday to reassure allied forces amid escalating tensions with Iran.