Iran’s parliament on Tuesday introduced a bill that would suspend UN inspections of its nuclear facilities and require the government to increase uranium enrichment if European countries that signed the 2015 nuclear deal do not grant exemptions from oil and banking sanctions.
The vote to debate the bill, which will have to go through several other stages before it becomes law, was a demonstration of the challenge following the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist last month. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.
THE KILLING OF AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR SCIENTIST HAS A REGION, WORLD LEADERS ON THE EDGE OVER A POTENTIAL DISCOUNT FROM IRAN
The official IRNA news agency said 251
The bill will give European countries three months to ease sanctions against Iran’s key oil and gas sector and restore its access to the international banking system. The United States has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal, sparking a series of escalations between the two countries.
The bill will force authorities to resume uranium enrichment to 20%, which is below the threshold required for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It will also introduce new centrifuges at Natanz’s nuclear facilities and Fordo’s underground site.
Parliament will have to hold a new vote to pass the bill, which will also require approval by the Council of Guardians, a constitutional observer. Lawmakers are pushing for a more confrontational approach as the United States withdraws from the 2018 nuclear deal.
Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei acknowledged the limitations of such an approach on Tuesday, saying the nuclear dossier was under the authority of the Supreme National Security Council and “no one can work on it independently”. President Hassan Rouhani, relatively moderate, heads the Council, which reports to the supreme leader.
The bill was first introduced in parliament in August, but gained momentum after the assassination of Mohsen Fahrizade, who is leading a program that Israel and the West say is a military operation looking at building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the “structured program” ended in 2003. U.S. intelligence agencies agree with that assessment in a 2007 report.
Israel insists Iran still maintains its ambition to develop nuclear weapons, citing Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies. Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran has blamed Israel for the assassination of Fahrizade, who has long waged a covert war against Tehran and its proxies in the region. Israeli authorities declined to comment on the killing, and no one claimed responsibility.
Some Iranian officials have suggested that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has regularly inspected Iran’s nuclear facilities in recent years as part of a 2015 agreement, may have been a source of information about Fahrizade’s killers.
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Iran has begun to publicly exceed uranium enrichment levels set by the nuclear deal after the United States reinstates sanctions. It is currently enriching growing uranium reserves with a purity of up to 4.5%.
This is still well below 90% weapons levels, although experts warn that Iran now has low enough enriched uranium to refuel at least two atomic bombs if it decides to pursue them.