Image Credit: Aljazeera
After three years a landmark deal between Iran and world powers is under threat. Following rising tensions over the summer, Iran cancelled the accreditation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector, who was prevented from entering a nuclear facility in the country. Iranian officials stated that the inspector set off an alarm at the plant during routine security checks, as she was carrying “suspicious material.” The IAEA have then accused Iran of refusing to allow the inspector to exit the country.
This follows the partial breakdown of Iran’s nuclear deal, the UN reports. Iran has failed to cooperate with an investigation into how traces of uranium were found at a side in the Turquzabad, Tehran. Relations have been deteriorating between the US and Iran since President Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal last year, and instead imposed sanctions on the country.
Prior to the deal being reached in 2015, Iran had been engaging in efforts to acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons for more than two decades. While it maintains the standpoint that its nuclear activities were entirely peaceful, it had developed a range of technologies including warhead design and delivery systems. This has meant that it could create weapons in a relatively short time frame, in a tactic academics have coined as “hedging.” Policy advisors are afraid this is where Iran will return back to if the deal is not saved, and is a concerning prospect considering the country’s past ties to the Hezbollah.
The UN has said the 2015 deal can be sanctioned with the remaining signatories despite the US dropping out, as long as Iran returns to full implementation of its commitments. In an attempt to save the deal, the IAEA have stated the remaining parties are still committed to the deal. However, in retaliation for the US implementing its ‘maximum pressure’ policy, Iran has gradually reduced its commitments to the pact. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated he was aware of the “sensitivity” surrounding uranium enrichment at Fordow, one of Iran’s nuclear bases. In anticipation of international retribution, the base was built in secret 300ft underground in order to protect it from air strikes. He later stressed that the step could be reversed if other parties upheld their commitments. Similarly, the US fears that Iran will continue to increase its use of low-enriched uranium which currently stands at three to four pe cent as in line with the 2015 agreement, as weapons grade Uranium must be 90 per cent enriched or more.
However, the IAEA spokesman said that Iran would be producing 4.5 per cent enriched uranium. This is an increase which has worried the US, prompting secretary of state Mike Pompeo, to explain that “it is now time for all nations to reject this regime’s nuclear extortion and take serious steps to increase pressure.” In September, President Rouhani said that “all limitations” imposed on Iranian development and research of centrifuge technology would be lifted, allowing Iran to continue to develop its nuclear programme.
Nevertheless, only time will tell who will win in this high stakes nuclear standoff, as it has often proved true with historic nuclear tensions that neither side involved will wish to make the terrible decision to blink first.