The announcement today signifies another step towards a confrontation between Tehran and the US.
What has happened will be hailed by the hawks in the White House as a victory for their policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
But others will look at this development with consternation and fear of where this situation could end up.
Iran threatens uranium enrichment as it pulls out of parts of 2015 nuclear deal
The announcement comes exactly one year after US President Donald Trump withdrew America from the 2015 nuclear deal
The Iran deal was the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration.
Named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement was designed to limit Iran’s civilian nuclear program and by extension its ability to build a nuclear bomb.
Iran agreed to this in exchange for relief from punitive sanctions that were battering its economy.
Under the deal it agreed, amongst other things, to massively reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and capping uranium enrichment at 3.6% – enough for civilian nuclear power, but far short of bomb-building requirements.
JCPOA was signed in Vienna in 2015 by Iran and six other countries – the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – and at the time was seen as a convincing and powerful argument for the merits of diplomacy rather than war.
But the deal had its detractors.
Israel has always vociferously argued that Iran cannot be trusted. It believes the deal is flawed as eventually Iran would be able to build a bomb, as JCPOA was only effective for 15 years – until 2030.
Enter Donald Trump, the new US President, who agreed with Jerusalem and on this day last year dramatically pulled out of the deal; despite huge objections from the other signatories.
They argued that whilst the deal was not perfect, it bought vital time.
The Trump administration though did not buy that – and although Iran seemed to follow the letter of the deal, it continued to test missiles and fund terror groups in Iraq and Syria. The deal was the cash machine for this regional malignancy, according to the White House.
America then doubled down renewing sanctions and threatening any companies, who traded with the US, with economic and legal pain if they dealt with Tehran.
Those sanctions are now seriously hurting the Iranian economy. The currency is at an all-time low and inflation is rampant. The announcement today by the Iranians on the anniversary of the US pullout is push-back.
By stepping away from some of the restrictions of JCPOA but not pulling out of it completely the regime is calculating that it can pressure the Europeans to offer some relief from the US sanctions.
Tehran’s argument is this – what is the point of being bound to the deal if there is no economic benefit?
It is a gamble as there may not be that much those signatories can do without angering the Trump administration.
Then, of course, the big question looms. Can those signatories remain in the deal if Iran is not complying with all parts of the agreement? Probably not.
For the moment the deal is alive – but make no mistake, it is on life support.
The danger is if the diplomatic course completely collapses, a head-on military collision becomes more likely between the US and Iran.