After the nuclear deal was signed between Iran and the five permanent members of Security Council plus Germany, the US President Barack Obama announced in his official statement delivered in July 2015 that the signed deal is a comprehensive, long-term agreement with Iran, preventing the “Iranian Republic” from acquiring nuclear weapons. But this reassuring sentence that topped the presidential statement soon faded away in the rest of the statement in which Obama said, “Currently Iran has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons. Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single nuclear weapon. This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.”
The credibility of the previous statement came into question when days ago, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, less than two years after the nuclear deal, issued an order to Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to design and build a “Nuclear Propulsion Project”, which openly takes advantage of the shipping industry. It signifies not only breaching the nuclear deal and a clear resumption of Iranian nuclear program but also points to studying and designing production of “fuel consumption” for the “nuclear propulsion project”– which is a new violation of nuclear deal by Iran.
All these clearly show that the nuclear deal was considered as a postponement for Iran in producing nuclear weapons for 15 years, on the assumption that Iran will be committed to all provisions in the deal– that included delivering the enriched uranium by 20%, and storing two-thirds of the enrichment centrifuges on Iranian territory under international monitoring. Permission to inspect factories of devices and uranium mills, and not allowing Iran to store more than 130 tons of heavy water were included in the deal as well. Any violation of these provisions would bring Iran closer to building nuclear weapons in less than 15 years. With Rouhani’s recent directives and orders as to resuming Iranian nuclear program, it is clear that the agreed period of 15 years is about to be massively shortened.
Prior to the issue of making nuclear engines with Rouhani’s order, Iran has already violated the nuclear deal several times in terms of heavy water amount on its land, which prompted International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to issue a warning at the end of November, 2016, saying, “Iran must stop overstepping the limit of its stock of heavy water, based on what is stipulated in the deal with the major powers.” Officials from P5+1 — signatory countries on the deal including the United States– expressed their disappointment with this.
Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors– called “heavy water reactors”– which work as a mediator to control the energy of the neutrons, and are also used to cool the reactors. But, more importantly, heavy water enables nuclear reactors to use uranium without high-level of enrichment, meaning that sufficient amount of heavy water offsets Iran’s lack of fertilizing centrifuges, as a result of which Iran does not need high-level enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons. It is actually basic material in manufacturing weapons and nuclear reactors. That is why the nuclear deal stipulates that stored quantity of heavy water must not exceed 130 tons over the territory of Iran, and overstepping that amount eliminates the feasibility of all other provisions in the deal –even if committed– to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Actually, Iran had produced 200 tons of heavy water until January 2016, according to Abbas Araghchi’s remarks– Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister and chief negotiator in talks that resulted in the nuclear deal. And in an earlier statement, he had said that production volume of Iran’s heavy water is between 25 to 30 tons per year.
After signing the nuclear deal, Iran did not sell the surplus of heavy water production, except for 32 tons to the United States, as agreed in the nuclear deal. Later Iran stopped the deal under the pretext of US Treasury confiscating $2 billion of Iran’s frozen assets in U.S. banks. The United States has announced that it will not buy all heavy water produced in Iran, expressing hope that other countries would buy and use it in reactors operating in the field of radioactive isotopes in medical fields.
Likewise, Iran announced its intention to export 40 tons of heavy water to Russia, which did not really happen. Consequently, stored heavy water in Iran exceeds the amount permitted by the nuclear deal, which is a clear violation of the deal.
With IAEA warning Iran of consequences of violating the nuclear deal, Iran announced storing of 70 tons of heavy water in a rented warehouse within the Omani territory, but still in Iran’s possession. This means Iran can retrieve the water from the Sultanate of Oman whenever it wants, and has not, of course, sold or delivered the heavy water to IAEA.
On IAEA’s further criticism, Iran was forced to transfer another 11 tons of heavy water to an Iranian port, under the IAEA seals– saying that this amount will be exported, but no mention of its destination has been made so far. In addition, Rouhani’s recent order to Iranian foreign minister to probe cases of U.S. “violation” of the nuclear deal, as well as his order to Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to study and design the “fuel production” for the nuclear propulsion project –which are both signs of overlooking the nuclear deal and its stipulations— definitely underline Iran’s nuclear intentions– even if some people think of them as attempts to put pressure on next US administration.
Omani-Iranian corporation in storing heavy water represents a loophole in the international efforts for creating a non-nuclear Iran, and whatever the nature of this cooperation between the two countries may be, a member country of GCC should not have put regional security a risk. And equally, IAEA should obligate Iran to sell excess heavy water, or handed it over to the IAEA– not keeping its reservoir in another country under its own authority. Iran’s possession of this amount of heavy water proves the fragility of control procedures as stipulated in the nuclear deal, which has the most important disadvantage of not including gradual sanctions over Iran’s violations.
What is happening clearly shows that the US administration was more keen on achieving a political victory through signing the nuclear deal successfully, than taking adequate guarantees to prevent Iran from violating the deal, and moving towards nuclear weapons. Now the countries of the region and the world must confront this potential danger after 15 years or even less if they do not combine their efforts to stop Iran from storing its heavy water on other countries’ territories. If we take into account Rouhani’s last directives and orders to his foreign minister, and to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization about resuming Iranian nuclear project, it will certainly take less than 15 years!
Translated Material: Watan Daily
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS