Tensions are growing between Iran and the US as the Middle East nation announces that stockpiles of uranium will break the limits set in a nuclear deal with the West.
Iran struck the deal with the US and Europe several years ago – agreeing to curb nuclear weapon production in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
But US President Donald Trump tore up the agreement made by his predecessor Barack Obama in May 2018, declaring the document a ‘bad deal’.
Instead, he instigated strict sanctions again that are weighing down the Iran economy.
Bluff and bluster
Besides announcing the stockpile breach, Iran stands accused of state-backed terrorism by being involved in attacks on oil tankers passing through the Straits of Hormuz in the Gulf region.
The US claims mines were exploded on two ships and the Iranian Republican Guard was filmed removing an unexploded mine.
Iran denies the charges, but this has not stopped the US sending 1,000 troops and an aircraft carrier with support ships and B57 bombers to the region.
So far, both sides seem involved in a war of words, bluff and bluster.
Iran is ready to produce almost military grade enriched uranium, the US is piling on sanctions that are crippling the economy and although other countries disagree with Trump’s actions, they cannot cut a path through the barbed claims.
Shipping lanes under threat
Under terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran can maintain a stockpile of up to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Iran’s decision to quadruple production of low-enriched uranium will see the level pass the limit on Thursday, June 27.
The uranium is used to fuel nuclear power plants and for research facilities.
Iran is also threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, which is one of the world’s busiest waterways, taking tankers of oil and gas from the Gulf States to the rest of the world.
Around a fifth of the global supply moves through the 21-mile wide straits every year.
The straits are the only access from the Arabian Gulf for shipping to and from Oman and the United Arab Emirates on one side, while Iran lies on the opposite side.