Despite Tehran stepping up its enrichment of uranium, “the world knows” that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, Major General Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has stated.
Iran ramped up its uranium enrichment on Monday past the purification cap of 3.67 percent set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran Deal), in response to US sanctions and European leaders’ failure to honor their trade obligations with Iran under the deal. A spokesman for the country’s nuclear agency also threatened to further increase enrichment to 20 percent and to reactivate centrifuges vital for the production of weapons-grade uranium.
“Why do they globally sanction us about the nuclear issue when the world knows that we are not pursuing a weapon? In reality they are sanctioning us because of knowledge,” Salami said, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency. “Nuclear weapons have no place in Islam. Islam never approves of weapons of mass destruction.”
Typically, the IRGC’s statements are more bellicose than those of President Hassan Rouhani or Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. However, some analysts believe that Salami’s measured tone accurately reflects the reality in the Islamic Republic: that the increase in enrichment is a power play meant to force the Europeans back to the negotiating table and save the JCPOA.
“Right from the beginning the Iranians never had the intention to have a nuclear armament,” Udo Steinbach, former director of the German Institute for Middle East Studies, told RT. “This should be the approach of the international community, not to exaggerate what the Iranians might do.”
With the Europeans still ambivalent on whether to sanction Iran or re-enter negotiations, US Vice President Mike Pence maintained Washington’s aggressive posture on Monday, warning that the US will “never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” and stands “ready to protect” its interests against perceived Iranian aggression.
However, Middle East analyst Paul Heroux told RT that war would be a futile exercise.
“You can’t eliminate the knowledge Iran has,” he said, echoing Salami’s words. “You can’t bomb Iran’s knowledge out of existence. The right way is to go back to the negotiating table with Iran, and we’re probably going to get a worse deal.”
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