June 17, 2019 Iran announced on Monday plans to break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Iranian leaders first threatened to begin enriching uranium at higher levels in May in response to President Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and new sanctions against the country. A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency warned that in 10 days Iran could enrich uranium up to 20 percent— just short of weapons-grade levels. Deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi made the announcement just before a scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, putting more pressure on Europe to come up with new terms for Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.
Evidence Linking Iran to Attacks
A U.S. assessment blamed Iran for Thursday’s attack on two Japanese oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. A video released the U.S. military on Friday purportedly shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted, suggesting Tehran wanted to hide evidence of its alleged involvement. Since then, evidence of aggression against foreign interests—including the United States continues to mount. The Pentagon on Sunday said Iran attempted to shoot down a U.S. Reaper drone flying over one of the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. military officials also linked Iran to a separate missile attack in Yemen earlier in June that hit another Reaper drone and forced it to crash.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown said a U.S. intelligence assessment linked Iranian backed Houthi rebels to the attempted missile attack. Brown said the assessment concluded:
“a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9 (drone) over the Gulf of Oman to disrupt surveillance”
Iran Military Designated Terrorist Group
In April, the United States government designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Middle East experts warned that the unprecedented move against a foreign government could prompt retaliation and make it harder for American diplomats and military officers to work with allies in the region. In a telephone interview with Fox News on Friday, President Trump called Iran a “nation of terror.”
Tensions have continued to escalate since President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. In May, Iranian leaders warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.
STRAIT OF HORMUZ—Why it matters
President Trump addressed growing global concerns that Iran might make good on threats to close off the Strait of Hormuz—a move that could cripple some countries economy. Trump downplayed the threat to Fox News on Friday, saying if it happens “it’s not going to be closed for long.”
The Strait of Hormuz separates Iran to the north and the Musandam Governorate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the south. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and the world’s most strategically important maritime choke point and a main artery for the transport of oil from the Middle East. Approximately 22.5 million barrels of oil a day passed through the Strait of Hormuz on average since the start of 2018, according to Vortexa, an energy analytics firm. That’s roughly 24% of daily global oil production, and nearly 30% of oil moving over the world’s oceans.
SEE ALSO: US BLAMES IRAN FOR GULF OF OMAN ATTACK