Iran said Saturday (January 2) it plans to enrich uranium up to 20 per cent at its underground Fordo nuclear facility as soon as possible, pushing its program a technical step away from weapons-grade levels as it increases pressure on the West over the tattered atomic deal.
The move comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US in the waning days of the administration of President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal in 2018.
That set in motion an escalating series of incidents capped by a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad a year ago, an anniversary coming Sunday (January 3) that has American officials now worried about possible retaliation by Iran.
Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20 per cent a decade ago nearly brought an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal. A resumption of 20 per cent enrichment could see that brinksmanship return.
Iran’s decision comes after its parliament passed a bill, later approved by a constitutional watchdog, aimed at hiking enrichment to pressure Europe into providing sanctions relief. It also serves as pressure ahead of the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he is willing to re-enter the nuclear deal.