The star of a live television interview in Iran’s new nuclear workshop wasn’t the head of the country’s atomic agency, but three centrifuges labeled in English in the background, advanced devices Tehran is prohibited from using by the nuclear deal with world powers.
The placement of the centrifuges, identified as IR-2M, IR-4 and IR-6, may have served as a subtle warning to Europe as it tries to salvage the atomic accord after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it and restore U.S. sanctions.
In recent days Iranian officials from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on down have vowed to boost the country’s uranium enrichment capacity. The moves they have outlined would not violate the 2015 nuclear accord, but would allow Iran to quickly ramp up enrichment if the agreement unravels.
“I think they’ve been quite clear in saying that if the U.S. pulls out and the EU doesn’t live up to its side of the deal, it will rapidly increase its enrichment capacity,” said Ian Stewart, the head of a nuclear proliferation study called Project Alpha at King’s College London. “It doesn’t mean that it would go for nuclear weapons, but it does mean they could rapidly do that if they chose to do so.”
Under the nuclear deal with world powers, Iran accepted limits to its uranium enrichment and gave up its stockpiles in exchange for the lifting of crippling international sanctions. Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of covertly seeking a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program. Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes like electricity and the production of medical isotopes.
In the 2015 agreement, Iran agreed only to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent, enough to use in a nuclear power plant but far lower than the 90 percent needed for an atomic weapon.