Senior Iranian officials vowed on Wednesday to continue moving forward with nuclear weapons work and other banned activities as retaliation against the United States for breaching last year's nuclear accord, according to reports in the country's state-controlled media.
Iranian leaders instructed the country's atomic energy organization to move forward with sensitive nuclear work, including the construction of nuclear-powered ships and submarines.
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Further provocative actions will be announced in the coming days, according to these Iranian leaders, who described the country's actions as revenge for recent moves by the U.S. Congress to extend sanctions on Iran, a move the Islamic Republic claims is a breach of the nuclear deal.
Iran's latest moves have not elicited concern from Obama administration officials, who continue to pursue a series of measures meant to decrease international pressure on Tehran and provide it with greater financial resources.
"Considering that the US administration has ignored and delayed compliance with its undertakings under the [nuclear agreement] and given the recent extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) that had already been declared as a violation of the nuclear deal by the Islamic Republic of Iran… the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is ordered to develop the country's peaceful nuclear program within the framework of the Islamic Republic of Iran's international undertakings as defined in the following missions," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a letter Tuesday to the country's top nuclear agency.
Iran will move forward with a "plan for designing and building propulsion systems to be used in marine transportation in cooperation with scientific and research centers," according to Rouhani's letter.
It also will engage in the "production of fuel for nuclear propulsion systems," Rouhani wrote.
This is the first in a range of responses planned by Tehran, according to Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The renewed nuclear work is "the first but not the last measures to be taken by Iran," Velayati was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
Iran’s announcement did not draw a sharp response from Obama administration officials, who declined to say whether the nuclear work would constitute a breach of the deal.
"This announcement itself does not constitute a violation," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. "I think there's a lot we just don't know. I mean, this announcement just got made. There's a lot we don’t know about it and what it means. And so I think we'd have to reserve some judgment here about the degree to which this could present any kind of problem."
Kirby expressed faith in international nuclear inspectors, telling reporters that they would likely catch a breach of the deal.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert of rogue regimes, told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran is using the renewal of sanctions as an excuse to ramp up its illicit research activities
"The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], which they have never officially signed, was a gift made possible by Obama’s ego and Kerry’s naiveté," Rubin said. "If they disagree with the United States, they can follow a legal process to pursue that but the fact that they are having a temper tantrum shows their insincerity. Especially because no new sanctions have been applied to Iran. After all, the U.S. president can waive any sanctions so long as Iran complies with its commitments."
One senior foreign policy consultant who has worked with Republican and Democratic offices in Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon that Iran always planned to breach the deal once it received promised economic relief.
"The Iran deal was deliberately structured to prevent American leaders from pressuring Iran. Kerry and his Iranian counterparts wrote the deal so that Iran would get most of the benefits immediately, so that they could blackmail American lawmakers by threatening to costlessly walk away, which is exactly what they're doing," the source said.
"But the Obama administration counted on Iran waiting until the next president before revealing the game, and the Iranians sprung the trap early," the source added. "So now the administration will do everything it can to look the other way and get through the next few weeks, so they can blame the inevitable collapse on Trump."