Why does Iran significantly increase enriched uranium abundance?
Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabier said on the 4th that Iran has begun to increase enriched uranium abundance to 20%. This is Iran’s second increase in enrichment of uranium since it announced in May 2019 that it would suspend the implementation of some of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Iranian Nuclear Issue.
Analysts pointed out that Iran’s choice to increase enriched uranium abundance at this time is related to the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian general Suleimani by the United States.
This move is not only a tough response to the recent military deployment of the Trump administration against Iran, but also intends to put pressure on the incoming new U.S. government to gain more chips in the future negotiations on the United States to return to the Iran nuclear agreement and lift sanctions against Iran.
Abundance reaches the upper limit of civilian grade
Rabbier said that Iran had begun to implement measures to increase enriched uranium enrichment to 20% at the Fordo nuclear facility and had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency.
According to the regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the enrichment of civil-grade uranium is up to 20%.
At the beginning of December last year, the Guardian Council of Iran approved a bill passed by Parliament requiring the government to refuse the International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out verification in Iraq and further break through the restrictions of the Iran nuclear agreement within two months without finding any relaxation of sanctions against Iran.
In July 2015, Iran reached a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. According to the agreement, Iran promised to limit its nuclear program and the international community lifted sanctions against Iran.
The U.S. government unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018, and then restarted and added a series of sanctions against Iran.
Since May 2019, Iran has gradually suspended the implementation of some provisions of the Iran nuclear agreement, increasing enrichment of uranium to 4.5%, exceeding the 3.67% abundance stipulated in the Iran nuclear agreement, but far below the abundance of weapons-grade enriched uranium by at least 90%. Iran also promised that the measures taken were “reversible”.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said in a statement on the 4th that Iran’s move is aimed at increasing “nuclear extortion”, and the United States and the international community will continue to pay attention to the situation on the ground reported by IAEA inspectors.
Relations between the United States and Iran have continued to be tense recently. The Iraqi military said in late December last year that unidentified militants fired rockets at the “Green Zone” of Baghdad. U.S. President Trump subsequently accused the rockets of coming from Iran, which was refuted by Iranian officials.
The U.S. military announced on December 30 last year that two U.S. military long-range strategic bombers flew to the Middle East on the same day. The U.S. Department of Defense said on the 3rd of this month that the U.S. aircraft carrier “Nimiz” will change its plan to return to the United States and continue to stand by in the Middle East to deal with the “recent threat posed by Iran”.
Several media reports say that the United States and its allies in the Middle East are trying to seize the last period of the Trump administration to increase pressure on Iran, with the aim of creating more obstacles to the future return of the Biden administration to the Iran nuclear agreement.
The timing is subtle.
On the 3rd, the first anniversary of Suleimani, the commander of the “Quds Brigade” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, was killed by a U.S. drone in Iraq.
Suleimani’s supporters held anti-American rallies and marches in many parts of the Middle East on the same day. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei and senior officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have recently reiterated their “retaliation” against Suleimani’s death.
Arian Tabatabay, an expert on Iran at the German Marshall Foundation, a US-based think tank, said that Iran announced on the 4th that increasing enriched uranium enrichment was a way to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack on Suleimani.
Fan Hongda, a professor at the Middle East Research Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, believes that the United States and Israel and other congresses are angry with Iran’s efforts to increase uranium enrichment.
However, with the end of President Trump’s term, it is difficult for the U.S. government to take tit-for-tat effective action, and the next U.S. government is likely to pay more attention to the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Barbara Slevin, an expert on Iran at the Atlantic Council of the United States think tank, believes that Iran’s move is aimed at putting pressure on the incoming Biden administration to gain more chips in future negotiations with the United States, so that the Biden government can resume compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement and lift sanctions against Iran as soon as possible.
Slevin said that the longer the Biden administration will wait for the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue in the future after Iran increases its enrichment of uranium enriched uranium, the more enriched 20% will be.
And if Biden keeps his promise and soon returns to the Iran nuclear agreement, the situation can be quickly reversed.
U.S. President-elect Biden and his team have publicly said on many occasions that the United States will return to the Iran nuclear agreement subject to its compliance with the agreement.
Jack Sullivan, Biden’s announced presidential assistant to national security, reiterated this position in an interview with the media on the 3rd, and said that the Biden administration would involve Iran’s ballistic missile capability in subsequent negotiations with Iran.
Sadek Tsibakaram, a professor of political science at the University of Tehran in Iran, said that Iran is cautiously optimistic about Iran-United States relations after Biden took office.
However, he believes that the tone of the relationship between Iran and the United States is difficult to change. After all, since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the confrontation between the two countries has lasted for more than 40 years, and this contradiction is likely to continue.