The Guardian Council in Iran passed legislation that allows the suspension of UN inspections of nuclear sites and the raising of the level of uranium enrichment.
The legislation requires the government to resume uranium enrichment to 20% – a rate much higher than the 3.67% agreed upon under the 2015 nuclear deal – if sanctions on Iran are not eased within two months.
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed his opposition to this legislation.
This development comes after the assassination of the prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in a mysterious attack on a road outside the capital, Tehran, on Friday.
Iran holds Israel responsible for the attack, and Israel has not publicly commented on its alleged involvement in the operation.
Fakhrizadeh played a key role in Iran’s nuclear program, but the government insists that its nuclear activities are completely peaceful.
Iran has faced harsh Western sanctions aimed at preventing it from developing nuclear weapons.
What does the new Iranian law mean?
Under the law, which was approved by Iran’s Guardian Council, Tehran will give two months to European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal to work to ease sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil and money sectors after the United States abandoned the deal in 2018.
In the event that sanctions are not eased by the deadline, the government will increase uranium enrichment to 20% and install sophisticated centrifuges used to enrich uranium at its nuclear facilities in Natanz and Fordo.
It will also prevent UN inspectors from accessing these sites.
On Wednesday, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported that the Speaker of Parliament today asked, in an official letter from the president, to implement the new law.
Before the law was passed, President Rouhani said his government did not approve of legislation which he described as “harmful to diplomacy.”
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Tehran.
President-elect Joe Biden said he would bring the United States back into the agreement – negotiated under Barack Obama – and lift sanctions if Tehran returned to “strict compliance with the nuclear deal.”
Iran violated its uranium enrichment level in July 2019, but the enrichment level has remained stable at 4.5% since then.
Low-enriched uranium – which typically has a concentration of uranium-235 of 3 -5% – can be used to produce fuel for power plants. The uranium used in the manufacture of weapons is enriched to 90% or more.
Suspicions that Iran was using its nuclear program as a cover to develop a nuclear bomb led the European Union, the United States and the United Nations to impose sanctions in 2010.
The 2015 deal aims to restrict the Iranian program in a verifiable manner in exchange for sanctions relief.