In a move that will perturb Israel, Russia sent Iran 130 tonnes of natural uranium in exchange for tens of tons of heavy water sent from Tehran to Moscow, according to clauses printed small on the nuclear deal between major powers and Iran in 2015.
According to AP, Iran is preparing to receive a major amount of natural uranium, as a gift from Russia, to compensate for the heavy water which Tehran had to export. The transaction was approved by the Obama administration and other countries that signed the agreement with Iran, which they apparently agreed to keep Tehran interested for signing the nuclear agreement.
AP quotes two senior diplomats who said that the recently approved transfer by the US and five other world powers that have negotiated nuclear agreement in 2015, is for the supply of 116 metric tonnes (approximately 130 tonnes) of natural uranium from Russia.
According to the signed agreement, the approval of the UN Security Council is necessary, but is more of a formality, considering the fact that most states that have approved the transfer are permanent members.
The transfer occurs as compensation for the approximately 40 metric tons (44 tons) of heavy water exported from Iran to Russia, after the entry into force of the nuclear agreement. Another 30 metric tons were sent to the US and Oman.
Uranium can be enriched to varying degrees – can be used as fuel for reactors, for medical purposes, for research or as explosive material for atomic bombs. Iran claims it has no interest in building such weapons and that its activities are closely monitored under the agreement to give assurances that it is not used for military purposes.
As analysts reported at the time, Tehran has previously received a similar amount of natural uranium in 2015, as part of the negotiations that led to the controversial nuclear deal, in exchange for enriched uranium sent to Russia.
The new transport will be the first of its kind since the entry into force of the nuclear deal in 2016.
The delivery was announced before a meeting in Vienna, where representatives of Iran, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will analyze the complaints from the Iranians, that the US does not respect the promises made in the agreement regarding reducing the sanctions.
As AP is saying “the Agreement for uranium occurs at a sensitive time. Given the next US administration and that many congressmen are skeptical about the effectiveness of the nuclear deal that is meant to force Iran to develop a peaceful nuclear program, long term, they may look at the agreement as further evidence that Tehran is given too much concessions “.
Diplomats have said that any natural uranium transferred after the entry into force of the Iran nuclear deal, would be strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, for 25 years after implementation of the agreement.
They said that Tehran has not said what it will do with the uranium received, but it might choose to store it or to turn it into low enriched uranium (raw material for nuclear reactors) and then export it.
Despite restrictions present on its program of uranium enrichment, the quantity of natural uranium received is significant if Iran decides to store it, considering its potential use as soon as some limitations imposed on the nuclear Iranian activities, begin to expire in less than a decade.
The disturbing part of the Russian transport was observed by David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security informs congressmen in connection with Iran’s nuclear program.
Albright said that the natural uranium delivered by Russia could be enriched to a level high enough to produce over 10 simple nuclear bombs,” according to the efficiency of the enrichment process and the nuclear weapon design”.
Although it remains to be seen whether US President-elect Donald Trump will comment on the unexpected Russian delivery, some analysts are confident that Israel, particularly its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would push the idea of the existence of an nuclear-armed enemy neighbor.
Reuters claimed that Iranian lawmakers approved on Monday plans to expand the military spending to 5% of the country’s budget, including the development of a long-range missile program that Trump said he wants to see closed. The measure constitutes an incentive for the Iranian military establishment – the regular army, elite Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Defence – which has been allocated nearly 2% in the 2015-2016 budget.
But this could place Iran on a collision course with the Trump administration and will fuel criticism from other western states, who argue that recent tests of Iranian ballistic missiles are not consistent with a UN resolution on Iran.
That resolution, adopted in 2016 as part of the agreement to reduce Tehran’s nuclear activities, requires the Islamic Republic to refrain from producing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Tehran claims that it didn’t conduct any activities that include missiles capable of carrying such cargoes.