Iran said it will no longer respect any of the commitments it made under the 2015 nuclear deal and will abandon any restrictions on uranium enrichment and production. It marked the latest in a string of blowbacks to the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian general that could reshape the region. Iran said Sunday it would be abandoning its “final limitations in the nuclear deal” and its “nuclear program will now be based solely on its technical needs,” according to a statement carried by state news agencies.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said on Twitter that the country would no longer respect any kind of restrictions on the number of centrifuges it could operate. But the government emphasized it would continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and would be ready to return to the nuclear deal if economic sanctions were lifted.
The announcement was made hours after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Iran to mourn Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds force who was killed near the Baghdad airport Friday. His remains were carried through the cities of Ahvaz and Mashhad Sunday and they will go to Tehran and Qom Monday for public processions ahead of a burial in his hometown of Kerman.
The Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was agreed to between Iran and China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and the European Union. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and since then Iran has repeatedly criticized European countries for failing to do more to make sure the deal could be saved.
Experts noted that Iran’s announcement is vague enough that it leaves Tehran open for negotiations. “They are not saying how far they will push the enrichment or the number of centrifuges they’ll operate,” Mark Fitzpatrick, associate fellow and nuclear non-proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters. “I think they have reserved a lot of room for negotiation and for taking further steps if they need to.” Iran has already violated some of the limits outlined in the deal as part of an effort to obtain relief from economic sanctions.
Iran openly dropping all of its commitments to the 2015 agreement came on the same day as the Iraqi parliament voted for a measure to expel all foreign troops and the U.S.-led coalition announced it was halting its anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria in order to protect its bases from attack. Although Trump had said that killing Soleimani was part of an effort to prevent a war, “so far, it has unleashed a host of unintended consequences that could dramatically alter where the United States operates and Iran’s ability to develop advanced weapons,” notes the New York Times. “Increasingly, the killing appeared to be generating effects far beyond Mr. Trump’s ability to control.”