Should any national official threaten to develop weapons-grade uranium within 48 hours, if their country fails to get their way, you would expect the world to sit up and take notice. Curiously, this was not the case when Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran spoke to al-Alam TV last week. He brazenly threatened that “If America pulls out of the deal … Iran could resume its 20 percent uranium enrichment in less than 48 hours.”
Remarkably, with the honourable exception of Reuters, Kamalvandi’s comments went largely unreported by mainstream global publications. The media quiet is even more curious, given the serious implications of Kamalvandi’s claim. In short, it is nothing less than a tacit admission that Iran is violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed between Tehran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) in 2015.
The deal limited Iran to 3.67% enriched uranium, which can be reasonably used for energy purposes. But under the agreement, any uranium enriched to between 5-20% would be considered functional for nuclear armament. The deal mandated that such material is to be sold, fabricated into fuel plates or diluted to an enrichment level of just 3.67%. It is almost inconceivable that Kamalvandi’s 48-hour turnaround could be achieved were Iran sticking to the rules.
You would have thought that Kamalvandi’s worrying comments would stir the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into at least asking questions? But, the watchdog declined to ensure the JCPOA’s voracity. Instead, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said the collapse of the agreement would be a “great loss.”
It is a strange logic, given that the open threat to develop close to weapons-grade uranium demonstrates exactly why the JCPOA must be cast-iron. Kamalvandi’s claim shows precisely why the agreement’s ‘sunset clause’ is flawed. And even if the comments are to be taken with a pinch of salt, at the very least they are further evidence of Iran’s destabilising belligerence.
Not that you would have known it by reading the global media. Turning reality on its head, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif’s accusation that the United States and European countries are violating the JCPOA, were highlighted in the Guardian. Others, such as Forbes relegated Kamalvandi’s incendiary comments to a footnote in covering the visit of French Foreign Minister Le Drian to Iran. Reuters and France 24 even opted to focus on a Louvre exhibit at the National Museum of Iran, rather than acknowledge Kamalvandi’s aggressive statement.
Meanwhile, for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, pressing concerns over the Iran nuclear deal were not worthy of attention in their own right. Rather, it was placed in the context of developments in US-North Korea relations. Fascinating as a potential Trump-Kim meeting may be, surely the news that Iran, with its burgeoning regional influence, is willing to activate banned enrichment capabilities is news-worthy in itself? Yet, for too many global media, Iranian aggression is perhaps just not news anymore.