Iran’s Gambit: Force the World to Rein In Trump – The New York Times
Creating a Sense of Urgency
Iran’s threat to stockpile low-enriched uranium can be seen as a microcosm of its apparent strategy, and of the predicament facing the country.
Iran had agreed, as part of the 2015 nuclear pact, to keep its stockpile of energy-grade uranium, enriched just enough for use in power plants, at or below 300 kilograms, or around 660 pounds.
In return for this and other restrictions, Iran received a reduction in the economic sanctions that had devastated its economy and, implicitly, a lowering of the threat of conflict with the United States, theoretically making a nuclear weapons program less appealing.
The Trump administration has removed these incentives. It has reimposed sanctions, put pressure on other countries to break from the deal and has increased military pressure on Iran, most recently by deploying an additional 1,000 American troops to the region.
The administration has also curtailed Iran’s options for disposing of its excess energy-grade uranium. In May, it revoked authorization for Iran to sell the uranium abroad, as it had done under the nuclear agreement. Though Iran has largely disposed of the uranium by reprocessing it, the revocation underscored perceptions that Iran was being goaded into violating the agreement.
As the costs of keeping the nuclear agreement in place rose, Iran came to bear all of its obligations with ever-fewer of its upsides — along with overwhelming economic and military pressure from the United States.