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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

The nuclear deal has failed to curb Iran's weapons programme

Washington has not only enriched Tehran but also conveyed to other rogue regimes that it rewards bad behaviour

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, pictured here in Vienna, Austria, on September 28, 2016, revealed this week that Iran can enrich uranium to 20 per cent in five days. Leonhard Foeger / Reuters
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, pictured here in Vienna, Austria, on September 28, 2016, revealed this week that Iran can enrich uranium to 20 per cent in five days. Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

The faith reposed in Iran by the states that eagerly cleared the path for its return to the community of nations in 2015 was misplaced. Two years after the negotiations led by the United States culminated in the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran, the leadership in Tehran has reverted to its favourite sport of bullying and blackmailing the world. Barack Obama naively believed he could roll back Iran’s nuclear programme and moderate its behaviour by offering generous incentives. Now, Iran is threatening to go nuclear if those incentives are curbed on account of its conduct. In other words, Iran wants Washington and its partners to uphold their side of the bargain — and overlook, even indulge, Tehran’s actions.

On Tuesday, we learned how little the nuclear deal has done to enhance the security of the world when the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced on television that it would take just five days for his country to “resume 20 per cent enrichment” of uranium. This is the level at which further enrichment of uranium speeds up exponentially: getting to 20 per cent enrichment is 90 per cent of the work in producing weapons-grade uranium.

The terms of the nuclear deal required Iran to dismantle its most advanced centrifuges (with a counterproductive provision allowing it to install a cascade of new-generation centrifuges, which it did earlier this year) and ship out almost all of its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium. If Iran has adhered to the terms, how can it enrich uranium to 20 per cent in five days? The only explanation is that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal. As Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Tuesday, Iran has a long history of carrying out “covert actions”. She expressed concern that the International Atomic Energy Agency may not be carrying out thorough inspections. Ms Haley’s intervention, though welcome, cannot conceal the consequences of the nuclear deal. It has enabled the Iranian regime to enrich itself without relinquishing its nuclear programme, while sending out a message to other rogue states that Washington rewards bad behaviour. No wonder North Korea, another member of former president George W. Bush's "axis of evil", has ratcheted up tensions, and expects to be paid. A UN report released this week said that Pyongyang even dispatched shipments of chemicals to bolster the Syrian regime’s biological weapons programme, which was developed with the assistance of Iran.

Instead of censure, North Korea received muted praise from Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, who on Tuesday said Pyonyang had decided to “restrain” its “provocative acts”. Unable to alter North Korea’s, or Iran’s behaviour, the US is resorting to redefining words. For there is nothing “restrained” about regimes that threaten to decimate whole populations and aid the murderous regime of Bashar Al Assad. We always knew the nuclear deal was a bad agreement. Recent actions only serve to underline this sentiment.

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