Little time for a nuclear deal with Iran – Welt – Al-Ahram Weekly
The war of words between Iran and the West has escalated as further talks loom in Vienna to restore the nuclear deal between Tehran and the Western powers, with the former calling Europeans “passive bystanders” of the deal and saying their inaction encourages the former Government of US President Donald Trump to withdraw from it.
The Iranian allegations are likely to cause concern in Europe, because while Europeans want to expand their strategic independence in foreign, defense and security policy, many still see Europe as moving in US orbit.
Resuming nuclear negotiations with Iran has become a priority after Tehran said it produced more than 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium, significantly more than the 84 kg reported by UN inspectors last month and reported approaching the 170 kg required for the manufacture of a bomb after further enrichment.
The Iranian announcement could mean that Iran’s “breakout time” – the time it takes to produce highly enriched uranium worth a bomb – has shrunk significantly since the resumption of nuclear activities following the failure of the nuclear deal.
US officials now set the “outbreak time” to “a few months” compared to a year in which the nuclear deal was in effect. Under the deal, Iran reduced its uranium enrichment and all of its nuclear activities were under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“There is growing awareness that any delay in returning to the nuclear deal will have serious repercussions. Iran itself has announced that the amount of enriched uranium is higher than the IAEA estimates and close to the amount needed to make a bomb, ”a Western diplomat familiar with the negotiations told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The West has only two options: accelerate efforts to return to the nuclear deal and ensure Iran complies with its regulations, or risk a military confrontation to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Conversations are much easier than military action, ”he added.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Israel this week that the coming weeks would be crucial for the future of the nuclear deal with Iran.
The outgoing Chancellor said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a responsibility to push Iran back to the negotiating table while speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at a joint press conference.
“I also see a responsibility for Russia and China here, because if the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] no longer does what he should, then that is very difficult, so we are now in the crucial weeks for this deal, ”said Merkel.
Their intervention came when Iran asked European countries to guarantee the existing nuclear deal, which the parties will re-examine during the planned resumption of talks in Vienna.
“The European capitals, including Berlin, were passive spectators … Angela Merkel and the European countries know that without Europe’s inaction, Trump would not have dared to withdraw from all agreements or violate the nuclear deal,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Monday.
“We therefore expect all parties to know when they arrive in Vienna that they have no choice but to comply with their obligations under the nuclear agreement,” he said during a press conference.
“You have to assure the Islamic Republic clearly that this time no party will violate the nuclear agreement.”
The deal was signed with the US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany in 2015 and, in return for drastically curtailing its nuclear program, offered Iran easier international sanctions while placing it under UN supervision.
But the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement under former President Donald Trump and imposed sanctions again, prompting Tehran to gradually break its commitments.
Talks to revive the agreement began in Vienna in April, but these have been suspended since the election of the conservative Ebrahim Raisi in Iran in June. Tehran said last week it expected talks to resume within a few days.
During her visit to Israel, Merkel called on Iran to return to the talks immediately.
“The message to Iran is clear: come back to the negotiating table immediately,” she said.
In response, Khatibzadeh told reporters that “no new text or deal is being negotiated. It is just a matter of technical discussions to ensure full implementation of the nuclear deal by all parties. “
“The Vienna Talks, I repeat, will take place, and in the next few days you will see more activity and diplomatic exchange around the nuclear deal,” he said.
On Saturday, Iranian nuclear chief Mohamed Eslami said in an interview with state television that the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal should provide Iran with 20 percent enriched uranium, which is needed for its research reactor.
“But it wasn’t delivered,” he said. “If we hadn’t produced it ourselves, it would have become one of our problems.”
Under the terms of the nuclear deal, Iran was prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent, with the exception of research reactor activities. Enriched uranium of over 90 percent can be used in a nuclear weapon.
In September, the IAEA announced that the Iranian uranium supply had been enriched by up to 20 percent, the fissile purity was estimated at 84.3 kg, compared to 62.8 kg three months earlier. Scientists estimate that it takes at least 170 kg of enriched uranium to make a bomb.
Tehran’s strategy of violating the deal is seen by some European powers as an attempt to put pressure on Europe to provide incentives to offset the crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the US withdrawal.
US President Joe Biden has agreed to rejoin the agreement, but, out of goodwill, has refused to lift sanctions against Iran.
* A printed version of this article will appear in the October 14, 2021 issue of Al-Ahram Weekly