Iran today began enriching uranium to weapons-grade purity in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal as fears mounted that a South Korean oil tanker had been seized.
Tehran announced that it would resume enrichment of the nuclear material to 20 percent purity in the secret Fordow bunker – a brazen violation of the Obama-era agreement, which limits the purity to 3.67 percent and prohibits the use of the facility.
Meanwhile, a South Korean tanker was inexplicably docked in an Iranian port when US B-52 bombers flew over the Persian Gulf on the first anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by Washington.
The nuclear action comes after Donald Trump imposed sanctions last month and cripples any drafts Joe Biden may have had to fix the deal that Tehran has been disregarding for at least two years.
Iran began enriching uranium to weapon purity today, in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, amid mounting fears that a South Korean oil tanker had been seized
The Fordow nuclear enrichment facility is located around 80 miles south of Tehran and is surrounded by a double ring of steel, watchtowers and Russian-made S-300 missile systems
Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the MT Hankuk Chemi in front of Bandar Abbas on Monday afternoon without explanation. It had traveled from Saudi Arabia to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
Trump has called the Obama-era JCPOA “the worst deal in history,” and experts say Iran was insincere in making the deal and was never really interested in downgrading its Fordow nuclear facility (Photo: President Hassan Rouhani (left) and Trump (right)).
Supporters of the Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite People’s Mobilization Forces in Baghdad held the picture of Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed by a US drone last year
Iraqi protesters raise flags and placards as they gather in Tahrir Square in the capital, Baghdad, on January 3, 2021, a year after a US drone attack hit revered Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the Killed near the capital
Government spokesman Ali Rabeie announced today: “A few minutes ago the process of producing 20 percent enriched uranium at the Fordow enrichment complex began.”
Nuclear weapons usually use 90 percent enriched uranium, but the 20 percent figure is significant because the element is classified in the highly enriched uranium (HEU) category, which means it can be used in bombs.
The move was one of many mentioned in a law passed by the Iranian parliament last month in response to the murder of the country’s best nuclear scientist that Tehran blamed Israel for.
The move is Iran’s most recent breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which it violated in 2019 in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal the year before and reintroduction of sanctions the US lifted under the deal, had violated.
Meanwhile, satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed the MT Hankuk Chemi in front of Bandar Abbas on Monday afternoon without explanation. It had traveled from Saudi Arabia to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
The South Korean State Department has called for the ship’s “early release”, adding that it has confirmed the safety of the tanker’s crew.
The listed ship owner DM Shipping Co. Ltd. from Busan, South Korea, could not be reached immediately. Iran did not immediately recognize the ship’s voyage.
Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said authorities there were aware of the situation and were monitoring it.
Ambrey, a British security company, reported the incident as an apparent seizure. Another maritime security firm, Dryad Global, said the ship’s crew consisted of 23 seafarers from Indonesia and Myanmar.
Iran’s aggression coincides with the anniversary of the US drone attack that killed Revolutionary Guard General Soleimani in Baghdad last year.
In this attack, Iran later retaliated with a ballistic missile attack that injured dozen US troops in Iraq. Tehran also accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that night, killing all 176 people on board.
As the anniversary approached, the US flew B-52 bombers over the region and sent a nuclear-powered submarine into the Persian Gulf.
On Thursday, seafarers spotted a limpets mine on a tanker in waters off Iraq near the Iranian border as it prepared to transfer fuel to another tanker owned by a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Nobody took responsibility for the mining industry, despite the fact that it came after a series of similar attacks in 2019 that the US Navy blamed Iran for. Tehran denied being involved.
The facility is surrounded by a ring of steel and watchtowers that cut through the rough terrain. In the upper area of the picture you can see a road that branches off. One route leads to a building with a white roof and another to the underground bunker
An enlarged map shows the entrance through the boundary fence at the top left and further tunnel entrances at the top right in the mountain range
Tunnels provide access to the heart of the facility, which is filled with over 1,000 centrifuges for core production