Iran starts up a third set of centrifuges in Natanz

These actions are part of a policy of pressuring the Biden administration to lift sanctions
Atalayar_ Behrouz Kamalvandi

AFP/ATTA KENARE  -   Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi

Iran, faced with the inaction of the new Biden Administration, has decided to take an even more belligerent stance and pressure the international community, in particular the United States, to lift sanctions against the Islamic Republic, systematically breaching the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Just over a month ago, the Persian country started up a second set of centrifuges at Natanz to continue uranium enrichment. Again, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that Iran has begun enriching uranium with a third set of advanced IR-2m centrifuges.

The agreement allows Iran to enrich uranium only with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at the commercial-scale underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz.

The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran's own spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, stated on 28 January that "before the end of the three-month period, 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges will be installed at Natanz". He also stressed that Iran is presenting itself as a country of reference for the future in the nuclear energy sector and that these measures do not fall outside the framework of the "Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions" law.

Atalayar_Centro Nuclear Natanz
PHOTO/Organización de Energía Atómica de Irán vía AP - The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran shows centrifuge machines at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran

This law forces the AEOI to produce and stockpile a minimum of 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium. However, according to the Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran, Mohamad Baqer Qalibaf, 17 of those 120 have been enriched in just one month, a further sign of the Iranian state's growing capability.

All these signs of Iran's nuclear capability are just a tactic to pressure the Biden administration to lift sanctions, the first step towards resuming negotiations.

The 2015 nuclear deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been severely wounded since former US president Donald Trump ordered an exit from the deal in 2018 and the imposition of more sanctions. The new president, Joe Biden, promised on the campaign trail to return if Iran complies with the 2015 deal, but Tehran has thrown the ball in Washington's court, warning that it will not comply until sanctions are lifted

Atalayar_Centro Nuclear Natanz
AFP/HENGHAMEH FAHIMI - Iranian nuclear research centre in Natanz

At the moment, it seems that the reactivation of the deal is stalled, even more so after Iran's refusal of the EU's proposal to start informal talks with the US.

"Taking into account recent actions and pronouncements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this to be the time for informal meetings," said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, who also accused the Biden administration of "not letting go of Trump's policy of maximum pressure", in a clear reference to the US bombing of pro-Iranian militia positions in Syria.