President Trump warned the U.S. will "substantially" increase sanctions on Iran, as a United Nations nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting on the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria. Iran says its breaches of the 2015 nuclear agreement are in response to the U.S. pulling out of the deal in 2018, and re-imposing sanctions on Iran.
The U.S. called for a special meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board of advisors, and called for punishment of Iran for its breaches of the deal. The meeting concluded with no consensus.
U.S. Ambassador Julie Wolcott told the board that two "troubling" reports of recent Iranian nuclear activity show that Iran is no longer abiding by key restrictions in the 2015 deal.
She went on to say, "There is no credible reason for Iran to expand its nuclear program, and there is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community."
John Negroponte, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence and Ambassador to the U.N., told NPR Iran's breaches of the deal bring it closer to building a nuclear bomb.
"Enriching and stockpiling at levels higher than those agreed in the JCPOA [nuclear deal] would be a step towards nuclear breakout," Negroponte said. "Iran's newly-announced levels appear modest at the moment, but would become more concerning if there were further increases. Such steps would imply a willingness on Iran's part to go all the way to construction of a bomb."
The IAEA is responsible for monitoring and verifying Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement. On Monday, the IAEA confirmed that Iran began enriching uranium to 4.5%, just past the limit set by the 2015 nuclear agreement.
While the U.S. is asking for the international community to hold Iran accountable for its breaches of the deal, it also wants to bring Iran back to the table for more talks and to renegotiate terms.
Negroponte told NPR, "The US aims to reopen talks about JCPOA and other matters with Iran, as well as Europe. Tightening the provisions of the JCPOA is one of our stated goals. US pressures against Iran are designed to achieve this purpose."
Trump wants to force Iran to accept a tougher deal and include other requirements that restricts Iran's ballistic missile program and end its aid to its military proxies in other parts of the Mideast. On Wednesday, Wolcott said the U.S. was offering Iran the potential of full diplomatic relations with Washington if it came back to the table.
Iran says it will not negotiate under pressure. It maintains that since the Trump administration's sanctions cut off the economic benefits promised in the deal, Iran is entitled to break some of the commitments it made. According to Reuters, Iran's envoy to the IAEA told the newspaper Die Zeit that Iran wants signatories to abide by their commitments to the nuclear agreement.
"What we're doing only has one aim: We want to preserve the nuclear treaty ... Everything can be reversed within a single hour - if all of our partners in the treaty would just fulfill their obligations in the same way," Iran's envoy said, according to Reuters.