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Iran Threatening To Abandon Nuclear Deal And Europe Trying To Prevent A Collapse

Iranian top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi (R) and Helga Schmit , Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, June 28, 2019

Less than a week before the end of the first deadline (July 7) set by Iran for the remaining signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted on Monday, July 1, that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium has exceeded 300 kg as Iran had threatened to do.

Zarif warned that Iran would resume higher-grade uranium enrichment later as the second phase of Iran's deadline for diminishing its JCPOA commitments.

After the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions, Iran demanded that Europe should ignore those sanctions and facilitate trade with Iran. In May, Iran gave an ultimatum to Europe to act if it wants Iran to remain committed to its JCPOA obligations.

Based on the JCPOA, Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium is limited to 300 kg. Nevertheless, Zarif maintained, "As far as I know, Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium has exceeded 300 kg as planned, and we have explicitly declared what actions we will undertake and we see these actions as our rights, stipulated in the JCPOA."

The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency has also confirmed the claim by Iran that it has amassed a stockpile of more than 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.67 percent, in violation of the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization's (IAEO) spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said that IAEA's inspectors are set to relay their report to the headquarters of the international watchdog in Vienna.

Iran has warned that it will drop the nuclear agreement step by step should the European parties to the deal, Britain, France, and Germany (EU3), fail to meet Tehran demand to facilitate trade.

Europeans have set up the Instrument for Trade and Exchanges (INSTEX) but so far it has not been deployed for transactions with Iran. INSTEX is a new payment system for barter-based trade designed to circumvent U.S. sanctions imposed on Tehran.

The mechanism was designed to only support transactions in the pharmaceutical, medical, and agricultural-food sectors.

However, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi told reporters on Saturday, June 29, that Europe has failed to provide enough credit to make INSTEX fully operational. He described the mechanism as a "luxurious car with no gas."

Zarif also criticized the EU3 on Monday for taking about fourteen months to operationalize INSTEX, but going a step further saying that its operationalization does not make sense to Iran without carrying out other obligations.

"There are obligations in the JCPOA that the European side has to abide by them," Zarif told reporters, adding that the launch of INSTEX is just a "preliminary step" to live up to those commitments.

Nevertheless, Zarif seems not to be too unhappy about Europe’s efforts to kick off INSTEX, saying that it is a strategically valuable tool, since the U.S. does not want it and Europe is persisting.

Echoing his boss’ comments, the spokesman of the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry, Abbas Mousavi, insisted on Monday, "INSTEX does not match with the current conditions and the expected conditions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Negotiations are ongoing, and we have already conveyed our message to the European side."

Furthermore, in a milder note, Mousavi added that Iran would resume its suspended commitments under the JCPOA if Europe takes more practical and convincing steps to secure Iran's economic interests.

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini Federica Mogherini, whose term as the European Union Foreign Policy Chief ends next October, sounded optimistic on Sunday, June 30, writing on her website that seven more European countries will join INSTEX and it is in the process of realizing the first financial transaction.

More Iran and EU talks are expected in the coming days over INSTEX and other demands Iran might have. If mutual agreement is achieved, Tehran might return to observing its JCPOA obligations.

Nevertheless, a veteran Iranian MP has accused the EU3 of "buying time for the U.S."

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly threatened that it might withdraw from the deal if the EU3 hesitate to make INSTEX operational.

Since its withdrawal from the JCPOA and reimposing tight sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Washington has time and again announced its dissatisfaction with any move that might assist Tehran to sidestep the sanctions.

The U.S. special representative for Iran warned last Friday that Europe has a choice: Do business with the United States, or do business with Iran.

The comments by Brian Hook came as European countries made a last-ditch attempt to make INSTEX operational, and prevent Iran from breaching the terms of the JCPOA.