Iran has decided to no longer respect any limits on its nuclear activities set by a 2015 deal with major world powers. The decision came on Sunday in the wake of the assassination of a top Iranian military general by the United States.
The US, then under Barack Obama, was among six countries that had signed the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, putting limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting of crippling sanctions. The limits were defined in terms of the purity level of uranium enrichment and the stock of enriched uranium.
However, relations between the US and Iran soured after Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. In retaliation, Iran began announcing stepbacks from its commitments – the one on Monday was the fifth, and as the country’s foreign minister said, “final”. The breaches were not too significant so far.
President Hassan Rouhani’s administration said on Sunday that the country would not observe the restrictions on fuel enrichment, on enriched uranium stock size, and on its research and development activities, state media reported.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations,” a state broadcaster said, according to Reuters. “Iran will continue its nuclear enrichment with no restrictions...and based on its technical needs,” the government said further.
However, the government said it would continue cooperating “as before” with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors the implementation of the 2015 deal. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also said that all five stepbacks from the deal were reversible if other parties – a reference to the US – fulfilled their obligations.
In a joint statement, the leaders of three of the signatories to the 2015 deal – Germany, France and the United Kingdom – urged Iran to withdraw its steps against the deal. “We call on Iran to withdraw all measures that are not in line with the nuclear agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British PM Boris Johnson said.
On Friday, an airstrike by the US at Baghdad’s airport killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Trump owned up to the assassination, alleging that Soleimani had contributed to “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London”. He promised “major retaliation” if Iran tries to avenge Soleimani’s killing, and threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites.
On Sunday, Trump threatened Iran’s neighbour, Iraq, with “never seen before” sanctions, hours after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel the US troops following the assassinations.
On Monday, hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in Tehran to pay their respects to Soleimani during his funeral, Al Jazeera reported. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei led the prayers, and even wept at one point, according to AP.
Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab, told the crowd on the occasion: “The families of U.S. soldiers in the Middle East will spend their days waiting for death of their children.”
Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Soleimani, vowed on Sunday to take revenge.