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Tehran's Last Gamble? Iran's New Threat To Cut Back On Nuclear Commitments

Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, June 15, 2019
Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, June 15, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's renewed threat of taking "the next step" in suspending Iran's obligations under the 2015 nuclear agreement may put an end to the deal also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Rouhani has threatened that Iran will begin enriching uranium beyond the current 3.67 percent concentration allowed by the JCPOA, adding that Tehran will no longer respect the 300-kilogram limit for stockpiling enriched Uranium.

If Iran does what it says, this could bring back all the UN sanctions that were in place before the 2015 nuclear agreement. It could even become a prelude to military confrontation.

Although Europe, the United States and regional countries reacted angrily to Iran's suspension of its commitments in May, Rouhani says that he cannot be bothered by more criticism: " "If you want to express regret and issue a statement, you can do it now," said Rouhani.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed that the unilateral reduction in Iran's commitments under the JCPOA is Tehran's response to the U.S. pull-out from the deal and Europe's failure to stand by its promises.

All other signatories to the JCPOA, even Washington's critics among them, have dismissed Zarif's claim. In fact, Iran is the only signatory who should abide by all the articles of the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, while a pull-out by the U.S., UK, or all other signatories will not annul Iran's obligations.

The reason is that Resolution 2231 has replaced previous resolutions including the 2006 Resolution 1696 which called on Iran to put an end to all forms of enrichment. Meanwhile, Resolution 1929 ordered Iran in 2010 to give up all of its measures in the area of developing ballistic missiles.

Before Resolution 2231, Iran's Central Bank was sanctioned, its assets abroad were frozen and Iran was practically under Article 7 of the UN Charter whose paragraph 42 allows military confrontation against Tehran.

Rouhani had repeatedly praised the JCPOA after the deal was made. The JCPOA put Iran on a par with "normal" countries, enrichment by Iran was made legal and missile tests were allowed under specified conditions, the S-300 anti-missile system was put at Tehran's disposal, sanctions on oil and gas exports and foreign investment were lifted and billions of dollars of Iran's frozen assets were returned to Tehran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran never told Iranians about these benefits, as it does not want to tell the nation how billions of dollars of Iran's previously frozen assets ended up in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan to be spent on proxy wars while Iran's economy has been languishing with a minus 6 percent growth rate.

The Iranian government never asked the nation's views before developing its nuclear program and concealed the nuclear program from the world for years. However, the Iranian nation has paid dearly for the nuclear program and the regime's regional military ambitions under the looming threat of foreign military strikes as a result of Tehran's provocations.

The Islamic Republic of Iran always looked at the JCPOA as a temporary agreement and planned to return to its nuclear capacity-building policy. The world cannot be sure if Tehran would not act with the same logic with which it put missiles at the disposal of Lebanese Hezbollah and Houthi rebels, if it ever acquires weapons of mass destruction.

Iran always justified its nuclear program by saying that atomic energy will replace precious oil and gas in generating electricity. However, Iran's oil exports that had reached 2.5 million barrels per day after the JCPOA, have now dropped to 300,000 barrels.

Tehran's new threats make it look like a gambler who has lost almost everything and still it emptying his last coins from his pocket hoping desperately to scare the other side, while the result is evident: A total loss.