“We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran,” the White House had said in a statement on July 1, 2019. In a special briefing session on January 30, 2020, US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to US Secretary of State, Brian Hook, said, “We call on nations to restore the United Nations Security Council standard of no enrichment for the Iranian regime. That standard was abandoned under Iran’s nuclear deal and it needs to be restored. More than half of the countries in the world that have peaceful nuclear power do not enrich and there is no need for enrichment. We need to restore the UN standard of no enrichment for” Iran. He also added, “…and if you want to get away from these breakout cycle discussions and whether Iran is farther or closer to getting a nuclear weapon, we need to restore no enrichment.” These arguments reveal that the current US administration has returned to the failed policy of zero enrichment in Iran. However, it is well-known that according to the Article IV of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to which Iran has been a signatory since 1968, all parties to the treaty have an inalienable right to enjoy peaceful nuclear energy, and there is no prohibition on enrichment, which is a necessary stage in every country wanting to have the full cycle of a peaceful nuclear program. The Article IV of the NPT stipulates, “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”
Therefore, the US desire for zero enrichment in Iran is in contravention of the international treaties, including the NPT, and of the US’ clear commitments under the JCPOA and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
The US is well aware that it has been obligated to retreat and acknowledge the Iranian nation’s inalienable right to enrichment as an indispensable part of the cycle of a full nuclear program.
When the US resorted to a fabricate crisis over Iran’s nuclear program in 2002 and vetoed the result of 2.5 years of negotiations between Iran and the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the UK), reached in November 2004, the major trouble was its rejection of enrichment in Iran. In his State of the Union speech on February 2, 2005, then US President George Bush stated, "We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program…”
This was, however, an irrational and illegal request. In an interview with the Financial Times in June 2009, Senator John Kerry said, “The key here is that, first of all, the Bush administration‘s argument of no enrichment, in Iran, was ridiculous and on its face Because it seemed very irrational to people. They [Iranians] have the right to have a peaceful nuclear power and enrichment in that purpose.” Accordingly, when Barack Obama administration backed off from such a doomed policy, settlement of the nuclear issue began with a series of confidential talks in Oman in February 2013 and yielded results with the achievement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015.
The US officials should keep in mind that when Washington launched the fabricated nuclear crisis in 2002, Iran had a few numbers of first-generation centrifuge machines and was enriching at a very limited level, known as the laboratory levels; but when the US acknowledged Iran’s enrichment right with a turnabout in its attitude, Iran had of more than 20,000 centrifuges. Today, Iran owns a large industry in the area of nuclear science and has the know-how to use it. The Islamic Republic of Iran has successfully managed to reach 20 percent enrichment of uranium and produce fuel plates containing nuclear material enriched up to 20 percent for the Tehran research reactor with complete reliance on the domestic capabilities. The Iranian scientists have manufactured medical centrifuges spinning up to 60,000 rpm. Iran is also conducting broad studies, research, and development projects on nuclear propulsion systems which require a much higher level of enrichment and peaceful employment of nuclear energy. Fifteen generations of new Iranian centrifuge machines, including IR-6 and IR-9, have been manufactured, tested, and have come into operation with the unwavering efforts of the scientists and the exemplary resistance shown by the people of Iran. The enrichment capacity of the new centrifuges is 50 to 70 times greater than the first-generation machines.
Iran demands to enjoy every scientific progress, including in the peaceful nuclear energy industry, within the framework of the international regulations and its commitments, and that no country be allowed or able to deprive the Iranian nation of that right. Therefore, the Trump administration’s plan to once again test the Iranian nation’s resolve and to return to the failed policy of the Bush administration after 15 years is a strategic mistake, and they will certainly suffer a heavier defeat. This time, Iran has broader options and much more extensive nuclear knowledge.
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)