- Parliament gives Washington a month to halt its sanctions
- UN nuclear watchdog has downplayed legislation’s significance
Iran’s hardline parliament voted to end international inspections of its atomic sites as early as next month if the U.S. doesn’t lift key sanctions, further encumbering the incoming Biden administration’s efforts to salvage the beleaguered nuclear deal.
Legislators gave Washington a month from the law’s ratification to comply with their demands to remove penalties for dealing with Iran’s oil and banking industries. They toughened the original terms of the bill, which had called for a three-month window, after the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist last week.
“This puts an end to this one-way street,” the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, told the chamber on Tuesday to chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” which Iran blames for the killing.
“Western countries can rest assured that as long as they don’t live up to their obligations, we will push ahead with this decision,” he added.
The legislation would also revive the mothballed core of a contentious reactor and increase Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20%, which could then be purified to weapons-grade material at short notice. That reactor could be brought online within two months, Iranian nuclear officials have said.
The 2015 nuclear deal has been hanging by a thread since President Donald Trump walked away from it more than two years ago, reimposed sanctions on Iran and triggered a security crisis in the Persian Gulf. Iran has responded by reducing its compliance with the accord, which hardliners inside and outside parliament had opposed from the outset.
The agreement had been shepherded through a more moderate previous legislature by President Hassan Rouhani, whose government has indicated willingness to continue diplomacy toward salvaging it, even as officials vowed revenge for the assassination.
Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh criticized the legislation, saying it “isn’t reflective” of the ministry’s positions and is “neither necessary nor helpful.”
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said he aims to rejoin the agreement once he enters office, provided Iran also returns to full compliance. The International Atomic Energy Organization — the United Nations body that conducts the nuclear inspections in Iran — reported earlier this month that the country’s enriched uranium stockpile has risen eight-fold since Trump quit the pact.
The IAEA played down the significance of the legislation, which still needs to be vetted by the powerful Guardian Council.
“This is not the first time that parliamentarians have expressed themselves in this way or in very similar ways,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the IAEA, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
“We haven’t received any indication of restriction or limitation of their cooperation with us,” he said, adding “I do not see any reason to believe that this would be the case now.”
— With assistance by Patrick Sykes
(Updates with final vote of approval from Iran’s parliament from first paragraph)