Iran Ramps Up Nuclear Activity After US Squeezes Oil Industry

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Iran Ramps Up Nuclear Activity After US Squeezes Oil Industry

Micaela Burrow on August 2, 2022

Iran activated hundreds of advanced nuclear enrichment machines Monday after the U.S. increased pressure on Iran’s oil industry, a move Iran hopes will compel U.S. to comply with a new UN nuclear agreement.

Iran began injecting gas into over 500 advanced centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium to the point it becomes explosive, as part of the “Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Protect Iranian Nation’s Interests,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said Monday. He announced the decision hours after the U.S. levied sanctions against Iranian companies accused of funneling tens of millions in Iranian petroleum products to East Asia.

“Americans should not think that they can gain concessions at the negotiating table with these actions and should abandon such act of bullying,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdallahian said Tuesday.

The new sanctions target Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co., as well as nine additional entities, some of which are based in the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Malaysia, that the U.S. says facilitate Iran’s illicit oil trade.

“Until such time as Iran is ready to return to full implementation of its commitments, we will continue to enforce sanctions on the illicit sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

The Biden administration has supported the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. However, negotiations with Iran have stalled since March, as both sides accuse the other of being unwilling to compromise.

UN chief nuclear negotiator Josep Borrell proposed a revised version of the agreement on July 26, and Iran indicated support for the deal Sunday, Reuters reported.

Amir-Abdallahian expressed hope that Iran’s accelerating progress toward nuclear weaponization would pressure the U.S. into compromising on the UN proposal.

“We remain prepared to move forward on the basis of what’s all been agreed,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday at the kickoff of a 30-day UN conference to review an international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, referring to the UN proposal. “It is still unclear whether Iran is prepared to do that.”

Kamalvandi said Iran’s nuclear authority had alerted the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA), a UN body that oversees worldwide nuclear activity, of the new centrifuge operations.

Newly-installed IR-1 and advanced IR-6 machines will generate an additional 190,000 standard work units (SWU) of power according to “Iran’s needs,” according to Kamalvandi. Researchers from the Institute for Science and International Security assessed that level of power output could help Iran produce up to five nuclear weapons per year in a December report.

Iran previously activated 166 advanced centrifuges in June, bringing the total to 666, capable of producing enough weapons-grade enriched uranium to construct a weapon within one month, according to the report.

The representative of Iranian interests at the Pakistan Embassy, AEOI, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of State did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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