Iran threatens to break further away from terms of President Obama's 2015 nuclear deal

Iran says it’s weighing reviving its deactivated centrifuges and increasing the purity of its uranium to 20 percent

By Matthew Rozsa
Published July 8, 2019 12:13PM (EDT)

Iran announced new measures on Monday, which if implemented would further move the Middle Eastern nation away from the 2015 nuclear deal that was a cornerstone of former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy

Iran said it is considering reviving its deactivated centrifuges and increasing the purity of its uranium to 20 percent, both of which would further move the nation away from the pacifying terms it agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal struck by Obama, according to Reuters. Although the agreement was abandoned by President Donald Trump last year, Iran has previously only moved piecemeal to violate the terms of that agreement. Its latest announcement raises questions about the extent to which already increased hostilities between the U.S. and Iran could further simmer.

That said, Iran did not mention how far it would be willing to go in a potential return to the pre-2015 status quo, when it had the capability of building a nuclear bomb within months.

Trump's foreign policy toward Iran has received wide attention as the president has continued to reverse Obama's policies toward the country. Last month the president claimed during an interview that he had restrained one of his more hawkish aides, national security adviser John Bolton, from a violent retaliation after Iran shot down an American military drone.

"I have some hawks. Yeah, John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he'd take on the whole world at one time, OK?" Trump told NBC News’ Chuck Todd in June. "But that doesn't matter because I want both sides. You know, some people said, 'Why did you put —' You know, I was against going into Iraq for years and years. And before it ever happened I was against going into Iraq. And some people said, 'Oh I don't know.' I was totally against and I was a private citizen. It never made sense to me. I was against going into the Middle East. Chuck, we've spent $7 trillion in the Middle East right now."

In January, however, Trump criticized members of his own intelligence community for being too soft on Iran, suggesting they had allowed the nation to wreak havoc in the Middle East until he assumed office.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran," Trump wrote in a pair of tweets. "They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

Former CIA chief John Brennan responded to the president by tweeting, "Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy. All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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