7 September 2019   Leave a comment

Iran has announced that it is using more advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, something which was prohibited in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran made the announcement, and the Associated Press assesses the significance of the change:

“Speaking to journalists while flanked by advanced centrifuges, Kamalvandi said Iran has begun using an array of 20 IR-6 centrifuges and another 20 of IR-4 centrifuges. An IR-6 can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as an IR-1, Iranian officials say, while an IR-4 produces five times as fast.

“The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only 5,060 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas. By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon if it chose to pursue one.

“’Under current circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran is capable of increasing its enriched uranium stockpile as well as its enrichment levels and that is not just limited to 20 percent,’ Kamalvandi said. ‘We are capable inside the country to increase the enrichment much more beyond that.'”

This decision marks the third deviation from the JCPOA since the US withdrew from the agreement. It had previously announced that it would increase uranium “enrichment up to 4.5%, above the 3.67% allowed under the deal, as well as gone beyond its 300-kilogram limit for low-enriched uranium.” The deviations are intended to put pressure on the other signatories to the JCPOA–France, Great Britain, Germany, China, and Russia–to continue to trade with Iran despite the US sanctions on the state. According to The Guardian:

“Analysts said the announcement was carefully calibrated to highlight the urgency on France and others to help relieve Iran’s ailing economy, while avoiding triggering an armed response from the US or forcing Europe to formally abandon the deal.

The Iranian strategy is a high stakes gamble. Iran’s only chance to escape the US sanctions is to persuade the other partners that compliance with US sanctions means the nuclear deal is dead. But the deviations from the agreement provide the US and Israel with an excuse to attack Iran.

We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that if the US had not left the JCPOA, these problems would not exist. The sad truth is that Iran is now closer to developing a nuclear weapon that it was on the day that President Trump was inaugurated.

US President Trump is claiming that he has called off secret negotiations between the US, Taliban leaders, and the government of Afghanistan that were scheduled to take place at Camp David. Mr. Trump said that he cancelled the meeting because of a Taliban car bomb that killed a US soldier in Kabul. The Independent outlined the draft agreement that was supposed to be the basis for the Camp David discussions:

“Mr Trump’s decision to pull out of talks came just days after the US’s top negotiator for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the two sides were close to a deal to end America’s longest war..

“A draft framework agreement had been drawn up under which US troops would leave five military bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of the signing of the pact.

In return, the Taliban would be expected to guarantee the country will not be used as a launchpad for global terrorist operations.”

I must confess that this story does not ring true to me. The Taliban have been using car bombs ever since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and it is not clear to me why this attack was considered different, particularly since the agreement said absolutely nothing about a cessation of hostilities. I also find it hard to believe that high ranking leaders of the Taliban would come into the US–I am not sure that any US promise of safe conduct would be believed by any guerrilla fighter. I suspect that the cancellation is more likely the product of bureaucratic infighting among Trump national security advisers. But we shall see as more information becomes available.

Posted September 7, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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