Iran announced this week that it is changing a key term of the Iran nuclear deal — and plans to make an even more dramatic change in 60 days if partners don’t ease conditions.
The partners — Europe chief among them — complained, loudly. But so did an ex-partner: the United States.
The Trump administration immediately retaliated, expanding sanctions on Iran after Tehran said it would fiddle with a deal that the Trump administration thinks should be null and void.
“Hey, this is binary. You’re either in compliance or you’re not,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Baghdad on Tuesday, a day before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the change, and at the same time that the Trump administration was celebrating the one-year anniversary of pulling out of the deal. (Reports of Rouhani’s planned announcement had already emerged.)
Pompeo’s statements sound a little confusing to observers who have followed the Trump administration’s stance on the deal. Trump has called the agreement the “worst” deal ever.
So what’s going on?
The answer is that the Trump administration sees Iran’s behavior as another instance of why it pulled the U.S. out of the deal in the first place: the Iranian regime is not trustworthy.
“Cheating just a little bit is still cheating. And in the context of Iran’s nuclear commitments, it will not be tolerated,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, said Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If the clerics in Tehran choose, as the Iranian people are demanding, to play by the rules, respect the sovereignty of their neighbors, and abide by international obligations and commitments, the United States will be ready and willing to engage.”
What Iran is planning: Under the 2015 deal, Iran was permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful medical research purposes but was required to sell its surplus. Iran is now immediately keeping its surplus low-enriched uranium, which it had sold overseas.