TEHRAN: On Tuesday, Iran’s parliament adopted a bill that would cancel UN inspections of its nuclear facilities and compel the government to increase its enrichment of uranium unless European signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement offer exemptions from oil and banking sanctions.
After the killing of a leading Iranian nuclear scientist last month, the vote to approve the measure, which would also include ratification by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, was a sign of defiance. In all nuclear policies, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say.
State TV cited Parliament Speaker Mohmmad Baqer Ghalibaf as saying that lawmakers were “hoping to remove sanctions through this stern decision.”
The final vote count wasn’t published immediately. But the official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favour in a vote on whether to debate the bill earlier on Tuesday, during which many started shouting Death to America! And Israel’s Death! The bill will clear one month for European countries to relax sanctions against Iran’s main oil and gas industry and return its access to the international banking system. After President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew from the nuclear deal, the US imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, sparking a series of escalations between the two sides.
The bill will require authorities to restart enriching uranium to 20 pc, which is lower than the level needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It will also commission new centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear installations and the Fordo underground site.
Since the US withdrawn from the nuclear deal in 2018, policymakers have called for a more confrontational policy.
On Tuesday, Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei admitted the drawbacks of such a strategy, saying the nuclear file is under the jurisdiction of the Supreme National Security Council, and no one will operate separately on it The Guardian Council is chaired by President Hassan Rouhani, a comparatively moderate, who refers to the supreme leader.
The bill was first tabled in parliament in August, but after the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who headed a programme claimed by Israel and the West to be a covert project looking at the possibility of constructing a nuclear bomb, it gained new traction. According to the International Atomic Energy Organization, the organised scheme concluded in 2003. In a 2007 article, US intelligence services agreed with that assessment.
Israel maintains that Iran continues to maintain its nuclear weapons production goals, referring to Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and studies into other technology. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear programme is meant to be peaceful.
Iran has blamed the killing of Fakhrizadeh on Israel, which has long fought a clandestine war in the region against Tehran and its proxies. Israeli authorities refused to comment on the murder, and no one took responsibility for it.
Some Iranian lawmakers have indicated that the International Atomic Energy Agency, which as part of the 2015 deal, has routinely monitored Iran’s nuclear facilities in recent years, may have been a source of intelligence for the killers of Fakhrizadeh.
After the US restored sanctions, Iran began to openly surpass the uranium enrichment thresholds established by the nuclear agreement. It currently enriches up to 4.5pc purity for an increasing uranium stockpile.
That is still well below 90pc weapon-grade standards, while analysts warn Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium to reprocess at least two atomic bombs into fuel if it wishes to seek them.