The leader of Friday prayers in Tehran today warned that Iran could significantly increase its centrifuges if it doesn’t think the U.S. is playing fair in the nuclear deal.
The remarks of Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of the Assembly of Experts, came the day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed the body of clerics and insisted there must be full removal of all sanctions or no deal.
According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Khatami addressed “a large and fervent congregation of the people on Tehran University campus” and said “our officials should take a firm stance towards the U.S. officials’ remarks” that have been viewed by the regime as anti-Iran.
“The Americans say that the sanctions regime will remain unchanged, and this is a violation of their undertakings,” Khatami said.
The cleric added that sanctions removal was the only reason Iran was at the negotiating table. “Otherwise, we could increase the number of our centrifuges to 40,000 or 50,000 from the current 19,000,” he said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that they’ve been “crystal clear about the fact that Iran will have to take a variety of serious steps to significantly roll back their nuclear program before any sanctions relief is offered.”
“This is everything from reducing their nuclear stockpile — uranium stockpile by 98 percent and disconnecting thousands of centrifuges — essentially gutting the core of their heavy water reactor at Iraq, giving the IAEA the information and access they need in order to complete their report about the military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program, and we need to see Iran begin to comply with the inspections regime that the IAEA will put in place to verify their compliance with the agreement. And only after those steps and several others have been effectively completed, will Iran begin to receive sanctions relief,” Earnest said.
“The good news is all of this is codified in the agreement that was reached between Iran and the rest of the international community. And that’s what we’ll be focused, is their compliance with the agreement.”
As the administration has done throughout the negotiating process, Earnest lumped the supreme leader’s latest remarks into “a variety of statements from Iran officials are declaring what they would or would not do, and what we have indicated all along is that once the agreement was reached, as it was back in mid-July, that we would be focused on Iran’s actions and not their words.”
“And that we will be able to tell if Iran follows through on the commitments that were — and they made in the context of these negotiations,” he said. “And that is what will determine our path forward here.”
Fars also carried Russia’s announcement today that it has begun building a second reactor at Bushehr.
Both Iran and Russia were tight-lipped on the details. The two countries inked a construction agreement to add reactors at the nuclear facility last November.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters in April that the site will have “no re-processing to extract plutonium, no re-processing R&D, no other heavy water reactor for at least 15 years; and any excess heavy water will be sold on the international market.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), when he was in the House two decades ago, pressed for sanctions to keep Iran from building Bushehr.
“For a decade I was told that my concern had no basis — that Iran would never be able to bring the Bushehr plant on line, and that Iran’s activities were not a concern,” Menendez said in a February 2014 speech. “History has shown us that those assessments — about Iran’s abilities and intentions — were simply wrong.”