EghtesadOnline: Iran is likely to take more "decisive" measures if the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal fail to fulfill their obligations, says a political analyst, who believes it would be a "strategic" mistake if Europe decides to trigger sanctions snapback.
The steps taken so far by Iran toward reducing its compliance with the agreement are more "political" in nature than "technical", and have not crossed a European redline, Rahman Qahremanpour also told Mehr News Agency in a recent interview.
In response to US sanctions imposed after Washington withdrew from the agreement in May last year and Europe's failure to shield the Iranian economy from the unilateral penalties, Tehran has been surpassing the limits on its atomic activities step by step, Financial Tribune reported.
It has exceeded the deal's limits on nuclear enrichment purity and stockpiles of enriched uranium as well as research and development, including on the advancement of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. It has promised more cuts in its commitments unless Europe acts, but says its measures are "reversible".
A decision by Iran to begin enriching uranium to 20% purity or move the new centrifuges from Fordow enrichment facility to the Natanz facility and use them to operate 164-centrifuge cascades would constitute what some call a “decisive move” and would put the country on a new path, Qahremanpour, who specializes in international affairs, said.
He noted that Iran has the technical capability to resume production of 20% enriched uranium, but has not yet made that move because it does not currently need to do so.
Tehran is now enriching uranium to 4.5% purity, above the 3.67% limit set by its deal with major powers. It used to enrich to 20% before the accord was signed.
The expert predicted that Iranian authorities will decide to resume 20% enrichment, if Europeans fail to protect the country from Washington's reimposed sanctions.
Asked about warnings from Europe against further reductions in Iran's nuclear commitments, Qahremanpour said it would be a "strategic" mistake if the Europeans decide to trigger a dispute resolution process that could, within as few as 65 days, end at the UN Security Council with a so-called snapback of UN sanctions on Iran.
They would practically "eliminate" themselves from talks over Iran's nuclear issue if they do so, he stressed.
"In case of such a development, the Europeans would lose their influence. So it seems they prefer to not pull out of the nuclear agreement or use the snapback mechanism."
Most of the UN sanctions on Iran were removed in January 2016 when the nuclear deal—formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—was implemented. The accord was originally agreed by Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Under the deal's dispute process, Iran could argue that the US withdrawal and its sanctions campaign "constitute significant non-performance" and "treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments".
Tehran also could argue a reduction in its commitment is not a violation because, under a separate provision, the agreement says, "Iran has stated that it will treat such a reintroduction or reimposition of the sanctions ... or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under JCPOA in whole or in part".