US reinstates sanctions on Fordow nuclear facility in Iran

TASS – The United States is reinstating its unilateral restrictions on the Iranian uranium enrichment facility in Fordow on December 15. All previous exceptions to the sanctions regime expire on Sunday, an official representative of the US Department of State told TASS.

“On November 18, Secretary Pompeo announced that the United States will terminate the sanctions waiver related to the modification of centrifuge cascades (for nonproliferation purposes) at the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran, effective December 15, 2019. Iran previously announced the resumption of uranium enrichment at the facility,” the official said.

The American diplomat did not answer the question of whether the restoration of sanctions would affect Russia.

Earlier Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that although Moscow had suspended the project for the modernization of the nuclear facility in Fordow, later on it would be fully implemented. He noted that Russia will need time to react to the new circumstances, i.e. Iran’s injecting gas to the centrifuges at Fordow and the United States’ imposing new sanctions against this facility from December 15.

On December 5, Russia’s TVEL fuel company (incorporated into the Rosatom state nuclear corporation) informed Teheran that it had suspended work on a project to revamp two chains of gas centrifuges at Iran’s Fordow facility for the production of stable isotopes for medical purposes following Teheran’s steps to further reduce its commitments under the nuclear deal.

Reduction of nuclear deal commitments by Iran

On May 8, 2019, Iran began the first stage of reducing its nuclear deal commitments and announced that it would take such steps once every 60 days if the Europeans did not fulfill their promises.

On November 6, 2019, Iran started the process of injecting gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility, which de-facto meant the start of the fourth stage of Iran’s reduction of its nuclear commitments.

The United States said it would re-impose sanctions against the Fordow facility starting from December 15.

“Iran originally constructed the Fordow facility as a fortified, underground bunker to conduct secret uranium enrichment work, and there is no legitimate reason now for Iran to resume uranium enrichment at this previously clandestine site. Iran should reverse its activity there immediately,” the official of the US Department of State told TASS.

According to Washington, Tehran took this step in order to put pressure on the international community and to get concessions.

“Iran’s supreme leader is reverting to his tried-and-true-method of using nuclear brinksmanship to extort the international community. The United States rejects this approach completely and calls on all nations to do the same,” the US diplomat said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the United States’ plans to impose unilateral sanctions against Iran’s Fordow facility “a flagrant violation of international commitments.”

The ministry stressed that such potential actions would breakdown the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program and would only hamper the reconfiguration of the Fordow facility to produce stable isotopes, as envisaged by the deal.

Readiness for dialogue

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he is committed to dialogue with Tehran and is ready to meet with representatives of Iran without preconditions. Until recently, the US administration has emphasized that the proposal remains valid. At the same time, Trump made it clear that he was interested in replacing the existing JCPOA with another treaty, which would include not only Iran’s nuclear program, but also a wide range of issues, including Tehran’s missile program and its regional policy.

Iran also signals a readiness for dialogue. In early December Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran was ready to begin negotiations “within one hour,” but Washington must first lift the sanctions. However, according to Rouhani, the US insists that “first one need to negotiate, and then lift the sanctions.”

Commenting on the restoration of US sanctions against the facility in Fordow, the State Department spokesman told TASS, that starting a wider dialogue on all issues is a condition for the possible removal of the restrictions.

“The only viable way forward is through comprehensive negotiations that address the full range of Iran’s threats. Iran’s most recent actions are yet another clear attempt at nuclear extortion that will only deepen its political and economic isolation from the world,” the US diplomat said.

Iran nuclear deal

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed between Iran and six international mediators (the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, the United States, and France) in July 2015. Under the deal, Iran undertook to curb its nuclear activities and place them under total control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange of abandonment of the sanctions imposed previously by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and the United States over its nuclear program.

Iran pledged not to enrich uranium above the level of 3.67% for 15 years and maintain enriched uranium stockpiles at the level not exceeding 300 kg, as well as not to build new heavy-water reactors, not to accumulate heavy water and not to develop nuclear explosive devices.

The future of the Iranian nuclear deal was called in question after the United States’ unilateral pullout on May 8, 2018 and Washington’s unilateral oil export sanctions against Tehran. Iran argues that all other participants, Europeans in the first place, ignore some of their own obligations in the economic sphere, thus making the deal in its current shape senseless.