The most prominent developments since the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal

What are the most prominent developments since the US unilateral withdrawal in 2018 from the Iran nuclear agreement concluded in 2015 between Tehran and the five permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain) Plus Germany.

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced his country's withdrawal from the agreement on the nuclear program concluded in Vienna in 2015, and the re-imposition of harsh sanctions on Iran.

The agreement allowed for the lifting of part of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, in exchange for its commitment not to pursue the possession of a nuclear weapon and to reduce its nuclear activities.

After the United States announced 12 more stringent conditions for reaching a new agreement, in August of the same year and then in November, it re-imposed harsh economic sanctions, especially on the oil and financial sectors. This prompted large international companies to stop their activities or projects in Iran.

Trump decided, as of May 2019, to end the exemptions that allowed eight countries to buy Iranian oil without exposing themselves to US sanctions.

On May 8, 2019, Iran announced that it would stop complying, as of the end of June, with two articles under the nuclear agreement. Because of the burden of economic sanctions, Tehran has sought to pressure European countries that are still committed to the agreement to help them circumvent it and reduce its effects.

The United States imposed new sanctions on "Iran's iron and steel, aluminum and copper sectors."

Tehran announced in July of the same year that it had exceeded the "limit of 300 kilograms" of low-enriched uranium imposed by the agreement.

On the seventh of the same month, it confirmed that it had begun enriching uranium at a higher level than the maximum level of 3.67% specified in the 2015 Vienna Agreement.

On September 26, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had launched the process of enriching uranium in sophisticated centrifuges.

In early November, Tehran confirmed that it was now producing 5 kg of enriched uranium per day, and announced the resumption of enrichment activities, which had been frozen until then, at the Fordo facility, 180 km south of Tehran.

On November 18, the IAEA confirmed that Iran's reserves of heavy water exceeded the limit permitted in the agreement.

On January 5, 2020, Iran unveiled the "fifth and final phase" of its program to reduce its international obligations, affirming that it would abandon "all restrictions related to the number of centrifuges." She pointed out that "cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue as before."

This came two days after the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in an American air strike near Baghdad International Airport.

On January 14, the European countries that are still party to the agreement (France, Britain and Germany) stated that they had launched a dispute settlement mechanism stipulated in the agreement, with the aim of compelling Tehran to return to respect its commitments after being accused of violating them. However, these countries confirmed that they oppose "the campaign that aims to exert maximum pressure on Iran."

On February 15, Tehran confirmed that it was prepared to partially or even completely back down from the measures it had taken in the context of its retreat from implementing its commitments, if the Europeans offered "tangible" economic advantages in return.

On March 31, European countries activated for the first time the "Instex" commercial barter mechanism for the delivery of medical equipment to Iran. This mechanism allows Western companies to trade with Iran without being subject to US sanctions.

On May 27, the United States announced the end of the exemptions that had so far allowed the continuation of work on projects related to Iran's civilian nuclear program despite Washington's sanctions, in the latest step to disengage the US from the 2015 agreement.

On June 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran was continuing to accumulate enriched uranium, and that its stockpile exceeded eight times the limit permitted in the agreement and that it was obstructing the most famous examination of two sites suspected of having previously witnessed undeclared nuclear activities more than 15 years ago.

On June 19, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution criticizing Iran, the first since 2012. The decision formally reminds Iran of its duties to cooperate with the inspectors, after it had refused since the beginning of 2020 to allow them to enter the two sites.

On August 14, Washington failed to secure UN Security Council approval for a draft resolution extending the arms embargo imposed on the Islamic Republic, which - under the nuclear deal - is scheduled to be lifted next October.

On the 20th of the same month, the United States officially activated the "Snapback" mechanism to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran, in a move rejected by European countries and other major powers.

On the first of September, the signatories of the Vienna Agreement reiterated their desire to preserve it despite the US withdrawal from it two years ago.

On the fourth of the same month, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran had allowed its inspectors access to one of the two sites, provided that the inspection of the second site would take place at a later time.

The agency noted that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium is ten times higher than the limit permitted under the agreement on the nuclear program.

On September 20, the United States unilaterally announced the re-imposition of UN sanctions on Tehran, warning that countries that violated it would be punished.

And the European countries that signed the nuclear agreement saw in a joint statement that the supposed "notice (of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)" could not have "any legal effect."

Moscow also considered that the Washington declaration lacks a legal basis.

On November 18, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran had begun operating "advanced centrifuges" that were finally transferred to an underground section of the Natanz facility (center), the country's most prominent uranium enrichment site.

On November 27, the prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated near Tehran in an attack targeting his convoy. Iran pointed the finger of blame at Israel.

A few days later, the Iranian Shura Council passed a law calling for the production and storage of "at least 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to twenty percent" and "putting an end" to inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The government expressed its opposition to this measure, but confirmed that it would abide by it.

On January 4, 2021, Iran announced the start of uranium enrichment procedures at 20 percent at the Fordow facility, which is much higher than that specified under the nuclear agreement concluded between it and the major powers.

 

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