European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are warning Tehran not to block inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after Iranian officials issued an ultimatum to Washington threatening to do just that. “It would be completely unacceptable should Iran obstruct IAEA inspections,” a German diplomat was cited as saying in Reuters.

“We urge Iran to refrain from this step, and are in close contact regarding this issue with our partners, including the United States,” the diplomat added. This was in response to Iran announcing on Monday that it’s poised to limit inspections should the United States not lift at least some sanctions by February 21st.

“Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said President Hassan Rouhani’s government is obliged by law to stop voluntarily implementing the Additional Protocol – which gives the UN’s nuclear watchdog more inspection authority – if US sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors are not lifted by February 21,” Al Jazeera reported. 

Alongside Iran lately blowing past uranium enrichment caps set by the terms of the JCPOA, barring snap inspections from nuclear facilities would constitute the most serious escalation by the Islamic Republic thus far

It further comes on the heels of Iran for the first time producing uranium metal which can be a core component of nuclear weapons and is a major step crossing over from uranium enrichment.

Tehran has been ratcheting its defiance for weeks as part of efforts to leverage the Biden White House into acting swiftly to lift sanctions, which has squeezed the population and choked the national economy, sending the currency spiraling over the past year. 

The February 21st deadline to lift sanctions was part of December legislation past by Iran’s largely hardline parliament. Interestingly President Hassan Rouhani opposed taking the dramatic step, however, he’s required under Iranian law to implement it.

The law was presented as ‘revenge’ and the necessary repercussions aimed at Washington for the January 2020 assassination by US drone strike of IRGC Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani.

Despite Biden’s prior campaign promises to quickly restore US participation in the nuclear deal, the US is now telling Iran it must come back into compliance first, while Tehran has firmly maintained it was Washington that backed out first

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