Day before yesterday, Iran resumed enrichment of uranium to 20 %, a level which was never seen since its Nuclear deal with world powers furthermore, Iran also seized a South Korean-flagged tanker near the Strait of Hormuz. As per reports, Iran had already informed the IAEA of its plan to increase enrichment to 20 % last week. Both actions are a surprise for the World, Iran used this approach to avoid impact of possible US corrosive policy against it, which was likely to face Iran in dealing with US on JCPOA in near future.
Iran had Increased the enrichment of Uranium at its underground Fordo facility, puts Tehran a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, and forcing President-elect Joe Biden to start negotiations with Iran on Iranian Nuclear Deal. The South Korean ship had been traveling from a petrochemical’s facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, when it was seized by Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary guards. Iran said that it seized the vessel over it allegedly polluting the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. The seizure of South Korean Tanker MT Hankuk Chemi comes to compel the South Korean government to release the US $ 7 billion Iranian assets frozen in Seoul Bank. Iranian government was already working on it that how Iran can retrieve its money back. Recently, the head of Iran’s central bank announced that the Iran was seeking to use funds tied up in a South Korean bank to purchase coronavirus vaccines through COVAX. It clearly indicates that Iran was planning to get its money from the South Korean bank.
Due to changing environment in the region, US repositioned its Air and Sea forces in the Gulf. US aircraft carrier Nimitz will remain in the Persian Gulf region, Two B-52 Bombers have arrived in the Gulf along deployment of Submarines. Israel also mobilized its air and Naval military hardware. US President Trump resort to aggressive tweets doctrine. On other hand Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said “Our measures are fully reversible upon full compliance by all,”.
Iranian Parliament passed a bill month ago asking the government to increase the level of Uranium enrichment to 20 % well above the 3.67 % agreed upon by both parties of JCPOA in 2015. The bill called for reduction in Iranian cooperation with IAEA. However, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani informed the World that he will oppose the implementation of the law. This shows that Iran will normalize situation after achieving its desired goal.
On other hand, these aggressive two prong strategy rang the bell in the Western Capitals and IAEA’s corridors. Iran did not resort to this move despite having reasons to initiate action, such as killing of General Qasem Soleimani, assassination of Nuclear Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Trump withdrawal from JCPOA etc. But, Iran remained compose at all these occasions and did not increase its nuclear activities. Then, a question arises what are the reasons of these actions by the Iran.
US president Elect Joe Biden openly expressed his desire to rejoin the JCPOA after taking office, this step did not suit to many in the United States and the West. These lobbies became active and start advocating for the US not to join JCPOA and if so, then renegotiate the deal and make it more stringent for the Iran. Iran’s economy was facing crucial time and it was binding to the deal only due to its financial constraints. Iran took proactive approach while evading psychological tactics by the US and its allies. It started enrichment of Uranium prior to the dialogue with the US, so US take soft approach in rejoining the JCPOA. On other hand it seized the South Korean tanker to get release of its funds from Seoul. Presently, Iran has got better bargain position in forthcoming engagement with the USA and the IAEA.