Iran began enriching uranium on Friday to 60%, the highest level of purity it has declared. This brings the Iranian regime’s enrichment program closer to the levels required to produce nuclear weapons. Thus, it seeks to put pressure on negotiators in Vienna during talks to restore its nuclear deal with world powers.
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the speaker of Iran’s parliament and a possible candidate for the nation’s presidencycy in the upcoming June elections, announced the higher enrichment today on Twitter.
“The young and God-believing Iranian scientists managed to achieve a 60% enriched uranium product,” Qalibaf said. “I congratulate the brave nation of Islamic Iran on this success. The Iranian nation’s willpower is miraculous and can defuse any conspiracy.”
As reported by AP News, the announcement came during the resumption of talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with major powers.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out three years ago precisely because he felt Iran was benefiting from the agreement and that there were no controls on its uranium production.
Under the 2015 deal, Iran committed to maintaining enrichment at 3.67 percent, although it had increased it to 20 percent in recent months and continued to enrich uranium with new centrifuges.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s civilian nuclear arm, later acknowledged the move to 60 percent. Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian state television that the centrifuges now produce 9 grams per hour but will drop to 5 grams per hour in the coming days.
“Any level of enrichment we want is within our reach right now, and we can do it at any time we want,” Salehi said.
According to AP News, Israel, which has twice bombed Middle Eastern countries to stop their nuclear programs, plans to hold a meeting with its top security officials on Sunday to discuss the Iranian announcement. Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called Iran a threat during a trip Friday to Cyprus.
“Israel is determined to defend itself against any attempt to harm its sovereignty or its citizens and will do whatever is necessary to prevent this radical and anti-Semitic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Ashkenazi said.
The threat of further enrichment by Iran had already drawn heavy criticism from the original members of the nuclear deal, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. On Friday, European Union spokesman Peter Stano called Iran’s decision “a very worrying development.”
“There is no credible explanation or civilian justification for such an action on the side of Iran,” Stano said. The Vienna talks aim to “make sure that we go back from such steps that bring Iran further away from delivering on its commitments and obligations.”
Former President Trump has argued since the 2016 campaign that Iran was hiding some of its actions and failing in its international commitments. In fact, for this reason, Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal. The information that emerged this week proves that Trump right.