Iran Announces New Violations of Nuclear Deal on 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Takeover

White House notes anniversary, says Tehran 'continues to target innocent civilians'
November 4, 2019 Updated: November 5, 2019

Iran has announced more violations of its nuclear deal on the 40-year anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the U.S. Embassy and hostage situation that lasted 444 days.

The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Nov. 4 that the country is operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges in violation of its 2015 atomic deal with other world powers, according to the state-run Tasnim News Agency.

“Today, we are witnessing the launch of the array of 30 IR-6 centrifuges,” Salehi, who heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state television as reported by Reuters. “Iran now is operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges. It shows our capacity and determination.”

Under the deal, Iran is allowed to enrich uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. An IR-6 centrifuge can enrich uranium 10 times faster than the IR-1s.

“Our scientists are working on a prototype called the IR-9, that works 50 times faster than the IR-1s,” Salehi was quoted as saying by the news agency.

Woman walking through Tehran, Iran
An Iranian woman walks past a giant poster showing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and the founder of Iran’s Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on Feb. 1, 2015, in a suburb of Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The move drew swift rebuke from other foreign powers, including a statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas that said Iran’s latest step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers risks breaking the entire agreement.

Maas stated that “ultimately Iran is doing nothing less than putting the entire nuclear agreement at risk,” The Associated Press reported.

Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said on Nov. 4 that the European Union is still committed to the 2015 deal with Iran, AP reported, but she added that the deal still “depends on the full compliance by Iran.”

Iran and the group of world powers known as “Group 5-plus 1,” which included Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, came to the accord on July 14, 2015. However, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, saying that Iran has frequently flouted the rules before the United States reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

As Salehi made the announcement on Nov. 4, demonstrators gathered in Tehran and chanted a refrain commonly used by Islamic extremists in the country: “Death to America,” according to reports. Some burned American flags and held signs that criticized the United States.

Iran missiles
A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, on Sept. 27, 2017. (Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters)

During the series of events 40 years ago, Iranian militants belonging to a student group supporting the Islamic Revolution of took 52 hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran for more than a year, until President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

The White House released a statement commemorating the event:

“Today, we honor the victims of this brazen act. The Iranian regime continues to target innocent civilians for use as pawns in its failed foreign relations. Until Iran changes this and its other hostile behavior, we will continue to impose crippling sanctions. The Iranian regime has a choice. Instead of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it can put the Iranian people first. It can choose peace over hostage-taking, assassinations, sabotage, maritime hijacking, and attacks on global oil markets. The United States seeks peace, and we support the Iranian people. It is time for the Iranian regime to do the same.”

Update: The article has been updated with more information about the group that occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

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