A senior Iranian official said Tehran’s decision to increase its nuclear activity for the fourth time this year should act as a “wake-up call” for European signatories of Tehran’s 2015 atomic accord to resolve the deepening crisis.
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, said Tehran’s move this week to inject uranium gas into centrifuges at its Fordow plant — a significant escalation of the Islamic republic’s nuclear activity — was “adopted as a warning to the other sides and the international community that we are at a crisis”.
He added that Iran would continue to increase its nuclear activity every two months unless it received the economic benefits it was promised when it signed the nuclear deal with the US, France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia.
“We hope this warning would encourage all other parties to implement their commitments,” said Mr Baeidinejad. “Now it depends on the other side — if they don’t take this warning seriously . . . we will be in a very difficult situation.”
The crisis was triggered when Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement last year and imposed crippling sanctions on the republic. The other signatories opposed the US president’s action and remain committed to the deal. France, Germany and the UK have been working for months on measures to help counter the sanctions, but the scale of the punitive measures has meant the so-called E3 have struggled to keep finance and trade channels open.
Mr Baeidinejad dismissed European arguments that it is difficult for them to circumvent the US sanctions.
“They have taken commitments that are defined in very clear terms and they should be able to implement those commitments,” he said.
Iran insists it remains committed to the accord, but began increasing its nuclear activity a year after Mr Trump withdrew the US from the deal.
While previous moves were more focused on research and development, western diplomats in Tehran fear the injection of gas into the centrifuges, which had previously spun empty, marked a more decisive escalation.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has been driving European diplomatic efforts to save the deal and has proposed offering Iran a $15bn credit line to help offset the decline in the republic’s oil exports, which have plummeted from 2.8m barrels a day in May 2018 to less than 500,000 b/d. But Mr Macron’s initiative would require a tacit approval from the Trump administration, which has insisted it will not ease its “maximum pressure” strategy.
European officials still believe there is a chance to save the deal and find a way to move Mr Macron’s proposal forward. A senior EU official said the bloc was pursuing a strategy of “maximum diplomacy not maximum pressure”, in a swipe at the US policy.
Activating the accord’s dispute mechanism in response to Tehran’s moves would lead to the end of IAEA inspections, the collapse of the deal and an increase in tensions across the Middle East, the European diplomats fear.
This year, Iran has been blamed for sabotaging tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. Iran has ruled has repeatedly ruled out talks with the Trump administration unless US sanctions are removed.