In response to the U.S. administration’s accusation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fired back “seriously?” after a statement by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham that said, “There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.”
After hearing about Iran’s resumption of its uranium enrichment program, U.S. President Donald Trump later tweeted that Iran was “playing with fire.”
The move marked Iran’s first major step beyond the terms of the pact since the United States pulled out of it more than a year ago. However, Zarif said the move was not a violation of the accord, arguing that Tehran was exercising its right to respond to the U.S. walkout.
The step, however, could have far-reaching consequences for diplomacy at a time when European countries are trying to pull the United States and Iran back from confrontation. It comes less than two weeks after Trump said he ordered air strikes onIran, only to cancel them minutes before impact.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the country’s enriched uranium stockpile has now passed the 300-kg(661 lb) limit allowed under the deal.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran’s nuclear program under the deal, confirmed in Vienna that Tehran had breached the limit.
Trump, asked if he had a message for Iran, said, “No message to Iran. They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re playing with, and I think they’re playing with fire. So, no message to Iran whatsoever.”
European powers, which remain party to the accord and have tried to keep it in place, urged Iran not to take further steps that would violate it. But they held off on declaring the agreement void or announcing sanctions of their own.
The White House charge that Iran probably was in violation of the nuclear deal before and after it was reached in 2015 sharply contrasts with CIA Director Gina Haspel’s testimony in January to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying, “At the moment, technically, they are in compliance.”