Iran Warns It Will Increase Nuclear Enrichment Within Days

Iran Warns It Will Increase Nuclear Enrichment Within Days
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign secretary, at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in Vienna, Austria, on July 4, 2018. (Michael Gruber/Getty Images)

TEHRAN, Iran—Iran’s president is warning Europe that Tehran will “take the next step” in increasing its uranium enrichment this coming Sunday, July 7.

The comments made Wednesday by President Hassan Rouhani further increases pressure on European partners to salvage the unraveling 2015 nuclear deal following the United States’ withdrawal from the accord last year.

Rouhani said, “If you want to express regret and issue a statement, you can do it now.”

President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed tough sanctions on the Iranian regime. The president viewed the deal as flawed, in part because the terms allowed Iran to be in a position to quickly return to developing a nuclear weapon, a concern that materialized with Tehran’s announcement on July 1.

Iran this week breached a low-enriched uranium stockpile limitation set by the deal and said by Sunday it would increase its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if Europe does not offer it a new deal.

Under the nuclear deal, the timeline for Iran’s ability to create a nuclear weapon was pushed back from a few weeks to roughly a year. In exchange, major powers lifted most of the trade restrictions on the regime. China, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom are the remaining cosignatories to the deal after the exit of the United States.

Iran claims its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, including power generation. Israel says the program presents it with an existential threat. Iran does not recognize Israel as a nation and has made repeated threats toward the U.S. ally.

Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements
President Hassan Rouhani listens to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark “National Nuclear Day,” in Tehran, Iran on April 9, 2018. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

“Just imagine what will happen if the material stockpiled by the Iranians becomes fissionable, at military enrichment grade, and then an actual bomb,” Joseph Cohen, head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, told the Herzliya security conference shortly before Iran announced that it had breached the nuclear deal.

“The Middle East, and then the entire world, will be a different place. Therefore, the world must not allow this to happen,” Cohen said.

An Iranian lawmaker threatened to destroy Israel in the event of an American attack on Iran.

“If the U.S. attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan,” Mojtaba Zolnour, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said on July 1.

Washington ramped up sanctions on Iran in May by extending trade restrictions on Iranian oil to all nations. Iran responded with threats to disrupt oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz. Six oil tankers have since been attacked in the region; Iran has denied involvement. The United States says the regime is responsible for at least two of the attacks.

Tensions escalated from there, with the United States sending additional forces to the Middle East. The United States came within minutes of launching an attack on Iran after the regime downed a U.S. drone in international airspace.

Trump has called for negotiations with Iran with “no preconditions,” but Tehran has ruled out talks until the United States returns to the nuclear pact and drops its sanctions.

Reuters, The Associated Press, and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this article.

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