Matters nuclear have exacerbated over the weekend. A year after Donald Trump decided to pull out from the West’s nuclear agreement with Iran, the government in Tehran has begun injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges in violation of its nuclear deal with world powers. While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be allowed to carry out its inspections, Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran has warned that Europe had little time left to save the 2015 deal.
“Our stockpile is quickly increasing,” said Mr Kamalvandi. “We hope they will come to their senses.” Iran has already breached the stockpile and enrichment level limits set by the deal, while emphasising that it could quickly revert to the terms of the accord, if Europe can effect he relief from sanctions, promised in return for curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme. Which is rather unlikely at this juncture given the increasingly prickly triangular equation between Iran, the United States of America and Europe.
The geopolitical anxiety has heightened since last Saturday when Iran junked the uranium enrichment limits. It is more than obvious that Tehran has upped the ante, and binning the 2015 deal may only be a question of time. Palpably, it is no longer abiding by the limits imposed by the agreement on its uranium enrichment and centrifuge research. This poses a fresh challenge to European leaders, now struggling to sustain their diplomatic presence in the Gulf. Twenty per cent enrichment is but a short technical step away from 90 per cent, which is weapons-grade level.
The government of the moderate President, Hassan Rouhani, has let it be known that the Islamic Republic is “not after the bomb,” but Iran is running out of ways to be integral to the nuclear deal with the US and the Western powers. Prospects of negotiations have dimmed with President Rouhani ruling out talks with President Trump. Iran has for the past four months been scaling back its compliance with the terms of the deal as it counters the “maximum pressure offensive” of President Trump, who unilaterally left the accord last year. Should the latest bout of enrichment lead to a reprisal from Washington, the implications are too awesome to contemplate.
US sanctions have choked off Iran’s ability to sell its crude oil abroad, a crucial source of government revenue. Iran’s economy is stuttering on account of the crippling curbs, with broad consequences for its citizens. Sanctions can scarcely bring a regime to its knees; nor for that matter has Trumpian diplomacy. Even a last-minute French proposal offering a $15- billion line of credit to compensate Iran for the revenues lost by the choked-off crude sales has not attained fruition.
The Trump administration insists that the goal of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is to force Tehran back to the negotiating table to “rehash the terms of the nuclear deal”. Iran has refused to do that, rejecting the White House move to abandon the deal signed by Barack Obama. Arguably, Trumpian diplomacy has failed again and the uncertainty deepens.