Suppose, as is widely believed, the President Donald Trump has indeed decided to abrogate the US signature on the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and is still only pondering on the date for making this announcement. According to some Washington sources, this information was given to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman when he visited the White House on Tuesday, March 20. Will the president wait until the last moment on May 15, when the accord comes up for its next six-monthly recertification? Or will he publish his decision earlier?
Iran is not expected to sit back and wait for Trump’s decision. DEBKA Weekly’s Iranian sources report that as soon as Tehran is sure that the US walkout is an accomplished fact, it will go into retaliatory action without waiting for a formal announcement.
Our sources outline eleven potential steps – all or some of which are immediately available to Tehran.
- The centrifuges which were silent since the second half of 2015 will again start spinning and resume uranium enrichment at a speed much greater than before. The JCPOA permitted Iran to develop more advanced centrifuges than the old IR-1 machines, but not to make them operational. For instance, the IR-8, on which Iran has been working, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, can substantially increase the enriched uranium product.
- Enhance the enrichment level of fissile isotope uranium 235 from its current 3.67 percent grade to 19.75 percent.
- Reactivate the Fordo underground facility for centrifuge-powered enrichment of uranium. Under the nuclear accord, enrichment there was restricted to non-nuclear material. The Fordo plant is buried in a mountain and heavily fortified against air or missile attack.
- The Arak heavy water research reactor can be restored to the production of plutonium, an alternative to highly-enriched uranium as a nuclear fuel. Under the JCPOA accord, Tehran was obliged to disable the reactor by pouring concrete into its core. The IAEA was never able to verify this action was taken, only later discovering that the concrete had only reached the pipes leading to the core, a blockage that is quickly removed. The reactor can therefore be restored to plutonium production in a very short time.
Abbas Salehi, the Director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was quite frank about this. Claiming that the reactor was modified to support “peaceful nuclear research and not produce weapon-grade plutonium, he also admitted that this modification could be “easily reversed.” He also said there would be no legal bar against Iran doing this.
- Tehran also disputes its prescribed obligation to notify the IAEA when a start is made on the construction of new nuclear-related facilities, claiming that notification six months before nuclear material is introduced is enough.
- Iran also stands by its own interpretation of the prohibition not to develop missiles “designed” to carry nuclear weapons, by insisting that it does not apply to missiles which “can carry” a nuclear a weapon, so long as they were not “designed” for this purpose. Tehran has flouted every international injunction, including UN Security Council resolutions, to curtail its ballistic weapons program.
- Iran could muster the network of terrorist networks it runs in the oil emirates for creating mayhem by striking government centers, utilities, oil fields, pumping installations and oil and gas export terminals.
- Iranian terrorist cells in Iraq could be sent to assault US troops in their bases.
- US forces could also be targeted in Afghanistan. Iran maintains good relations with Taliban and could give its fighters sophisticated explosive devices and mines for maximizing US casualties.
- The Yemeni Houthi insurgents could be supplied with precise, long-range ballistic missiles for striking strategic locations in Saudi Arabia as well as shore-to-sea missiles for disrupting merchant shipping in the Gulf and the Red Sea.
- Iran could send its proxies to go to war with Israel on three fronts, from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, without being directly implicated.