On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened that Iran would start increasing its stock of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, warning that if Europe didn't undercut American efforts to isolate Iran, Iran would end limiting its enrichment of uranium.
The New York Times reported:
Mr. Rouhani said that starting on Wednesday, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors — including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal. Mr. Rouhani then threatened a potentially more severe step. If the Europeans do not find a way to help Iran “reap our benefits,” especially in petroleum exports and banking transactions, in 60 days Iran will end the limits on the enrichment of uranium, he said.
Rouhani tweeted on Thursday, “Starting today, Iran does not keep its enriched uranium and produced heavy water limited. The EU/E3+2 will face Iran's further actions if they can not fulfill their obligations within the next 60 days and secure Iran's interests. Win-Win conditions will be accepted.”
As The Washington Post noted, “Uranium used as fuel in power plants needs to be enriched only to a low level. However, when it is enriched to much higher levels, it can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.”
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, stated, "The regime in Iran remains committed to nuclear weapons capability. Any Iranian move to expand their nuclear program should be met with the most severe sanctions -- and an unambiguous warning from Washington that all other instruments of American power are available to stop the ayatollahs' atomic drive.”
Great Britain’s junior foreign minister, Mark Field, called the Iranian announcement an “unwelcome step.” French Defense Minister Florence Parly echoed, “Today, nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this accord.”
Yet European countries have been undermining the United States’ determination to weaken the despotic Iranian regime using sanctions; European and Iranian officials are pushing the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), which undercuts America’s desire to isolate Iran. Sen. Ted Cruz blistered the Europeans in a statement reading:
It is unfortunate that our European partners are spending their diplomatic and material capital creating mechanisms that break up American sanctions, rather than siding with us and the Iranian people against the Ayatollahs' regime. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps dominates entire sectors of the Iranian economy, and there is no such thing as a safe transaction. The United States should be prepared to use all relevant measures, including visa denials and asset forfeitures, to protect the integrity of our sanctions and the maximum pressure campaign, and I will continue to work with the Trump administration and my colleagues to ensure that we do.
Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA ) and head of its Department of Safeguards, explained the necessity of the U.S. revoking waivers (which it has done) enabling Iran to ship abroad excess supplies of enriched uranium and heavy water:
Under the terms of what is formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran may stockpile no more than 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU), i.e. uranium hexafluoride enriched up to a 3.67 percent concentration of the U-235 isotope, and no more than 130 metric tons of heavy water. Thanks to a waiver that allowed it to export excess LEU to Russia, Iran maintained the option to continue enriching uranium under the JCPOA. A waiver also enabled Iran to ship excess heavy water to Oman for storage, from where it could be sold to foreign customers.
By revoking the waivers, the U.S. is pressuring Iran to stop the production of LEU and heavy water. Currently, there is an oversupply of LEU and heavy water in the global marketplace, which means that Iran would be unlikely to find customers even if it were allowed to export these items.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been consulting with Iranian ally Russian President Vladimir Putin; Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin saw “no alternative” to the Iran nuclear deal.