The delay in the new US President Joe Biden’s promise to revive the Iran nuclear deal has once again raised tensions in the region with Tehran announcing to disallow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the nuclear sites from Feb. 21.
Following recent tensions between the two long-time adversaries, which peaked in the final weeks of Trump's presidency, Iran's parliament adopted legislation that required the country to accelerate nuclear enrichment activities and end its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Abolfazl Amouei, the lawmaker and the spokesperson for Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, said the law shall take effect if the sanctions are not lifted before the Feb. 21 deadline given by the parliament.
"If within next two weeks, there is no opening of the sale of Iranian oil and improvement in Iran's banking transactions, as per Article 6 of the Strategic Action Law to Lift Sanctions, the voluntary implementation of the additional protocol by Iran will be stopped," he said.
In 2015, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—and Germany together with the European Union signed an agreement with Iran called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) placing significant restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
But in 2018, the US under President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and subsequently reimposed all sanctions on Iran lifted by the accord.
In 2003, Iran had signed an additional protocol under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), granting access to the UN nuclear agency IAEA inspectors to inspect and verify the country's nuclear program.
The protocol requires signatories to provide an elaborate declaration of their nuclear activities and gives the UN agency access to their nuclear sites, even though the action is voluntary.
-Onus on the US
Iran has put the onus on the revival of the deal on the US, maintaining that it was the Washington that had abandoned the deal and stopped implementing its commitments.
"Iran is in no hurry to revive JCPOA but will return to its obligations after the effective lifting of sanctions. We have adopted a policy of neutralizing sanctions," said the lawmaker.
While nuclear enrichment has already surged up to 20% in recent weeks, the law mandates the government to disallow inspection of the country's nuclear sites from Feb. 21, if the new US administration does not revive the deal.
Amouei said Iran will still accept inspections under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, based on the safeguard agreement, but will not accept inspections based on the NPT protocol.
"Iran had voluntarily accepted the implementation of the additional protocol within the framework of JCPOA in lieu to lift sanctions. But with sanctions not lifted, rather added, Iran sees no reason to implement the protocol at this time," he said.
He further said the action is in line with paragraphs 26 and 36 of the nuclear accord signed by Iran with world powers in 2015 and if other parties want to "revive" it, they must "first fulfill their obligations".
Iranian lawmaker asked the new US administration to undertake a “fundamental assessment" of the "failure" of the previous administration's maximum pressure policy toward Iran and "reverse that approach".
-Iranians say Biden pursuing Trump policy
According to Sayed Mohammad Marandi, who was part of the Iranian team that negotiated the 2015 deal, since the US under Biden continues to pursue Trump's policy of violating the nuclear deal, Iran cannot continue carrying out its commitments.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif last week said his country was committed to the Feb. 21 deadline, while stressing that not implementing an additional protocol does not mean shutting the doors to the 2015 accord.
He urged Washington to act promptly to return to the nuclear pact, before the stipulated deadline.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also declared that the country will return to full compliance with the deal only after the US lifts sanctions in a way that Iran can "verify them".
Last month, a senior lawmaker had warned that Iran will expel the IAEA inspectors if the US sanctions are not lifted by February 21.
“Iran, without a doubt, will stop the voluntary implementation of additional protocol if the sanctions against Iran, especially in finance, banking, and oil sectors are not lifted by the mentioned day. This is a law passed by the Iranian Parliament. The government is committed to implementing this law,” said lawmaker Ahmad Amirabadi.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) also said that his agency will abide by the law completely on the issue of nuclear inspections by the UN watchdog. He also announced that 1000 IR2M centrifuges will be installed at Natanz nuclear facility "within three months". The IR2M can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the experts.