Iranian Supreme Leader Threatens to Raise Uranium Enrichment

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets members of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran, Iran, February 22, 2021. (Official Khamenei Website/Reuters Handout)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Monday that the country would not abide by limits to uranium enrichment as outlined in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which is also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was limited to enriching uranium to under 4 percent at maximum, enough to produce nuclear power sufficient for electrical grids. After former President Trump exited the deal in 2018, Iran began steadily upping its enrichment levels, announcing in January 2020 that it would reach 20 percent enrichment at the Fordo nuclear facility.

Uranium enriched to 20 percent can be further enriched to 90 percent, the level needed for a nuclear weapon, with a small technical process.

“Iran is not after nuclear weapons, but its nuclear enrichment will not be limited to 20% either,” read a statement posted to Khamenei’s Twitter account on Monday. “It will enrich uranium to any extent that is necessary for the country. Iran’s enrichment level may reach 60% to meet the country’s needs.”

Khamenei’s comments came after U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said Monday that the U.S. could rejoin the JCPOA if Iran comes back into “strict compliance” with the terms of the deal.

“Working with allies and partners, we will…seek to lengthen and strengthen the JCPOA and address other areas of concern, including Iran’s destabilizing regional behavior and ballistic missile development and proliferation,” Blinken said in a pre-recorded speech to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. “Iran must comply with its safeguards agreements with the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and its international obligations.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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