- Iran declared Sunday that it was tossing aside a pledge to limit the production of nuclear fuel
- Iraqi parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from the country.
- Germany, France, UK urge Iran not to flout nuclear deal
- Oil extended its dramatic surge above $70 a barrel
Tehran: Iran said it would no longer abide by any of the limits of its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after a US airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
In its announcement, made on Sunday night, Iran said it was abandoning the accord’s key provisions that block Tehran from having enough material to build an atomic weapon.
Iran insisted in a state television broadcast it remained open to negotiations with European partners, who so far have been unable to offer Tehran a way to sell its crude oil abroad despite US sanctions.
It also didn’t back off of earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.
However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in May 2018.
It also further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to be able to produce an atomic bomb.
The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the US killing of General Qassem Soleimani on Friday.
Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets Sunday in Iran to walk alongside a casket carrying the remains of Soleimani, the former leader of its expeditionary Quds Force that organizes Tehran’s proxy forces in the wider Mideast.
The leader of one such proxy, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, said Soleimani’s killing made US military bases, warships and service members spread across the region fair targets for attacks.
A former Revolutionary Guard leader suggested the Israeli city of Haifa and “centers” like Tel Aviv could be targeted.
No limitations on enrichment
Iran’s state TV cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country will not observe limitations on its enrichment, the amount of stockpiled enriched uranium as well as research and development in its nuclear activities.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has in a statement announced its fifth and final step in reducing Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA,” a state TV broadcaster said, using an acronym for the deal. “The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations.”
It did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program.
Monday: Oil hits $70 as Mideast crisis deepens
Oil extended its dramatic surge above $70 a barrel as the fallout between the U.S. and Iran escalated after the assassination of one of the Islamic Republic's most powerful generals.
Futures jumped by another 3% on Monday as the U.S. State Department warned of a "heightened risk" of missile attacks near military bases and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Prices got a further boost as President Donald Trump reiterated threats of retaliation should Iran "do anything" and vowed heavy sanctions against Iraq if American troops are forced to leave the country.
The wild ride continues for oil as Washington and Tehran trade bellicose rhetoric, ratcheting up fears of a wider conflict that could disrupt supply from the world's most important producing region. Crude was last this high when Saudi production facilities were attacked in September, knocking out about 5% of global output.
Trump said he's prepared to strike "in a disproportionate manner" and attack more than 50 sites if Tehran retaliates against Soleimani's killing. Iran said it has to "settle a score with the U.S." and that it would no longer abide by limits on its enrichment of uranium. A vote by Iraq's parliament to expel U.S. troops from the country deepened the fallout.
"Oil will remain on tenterhooks, ready to jump higher with every headline indicating a turn for the worse," said Vandana Hari, founder of Vanda Insights in Singapore. "The U.S. and Iran traded sequentially bigger threats over the weekend and Tehran has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal, marking a quick downward spiral in what could turn out to be the worst crisis in the Middle East since the Arab Spring."
New head of Iran Quds force says he aims to remove U.S. from region
The new head of Iran's Quds force said he aimed to expel the United States from the region after its commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. strike in Baghdad, state media reported on Monday.
"We promise to continue martyr Soleimani's path with the same force...and the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region," state radio quoted Esmail Qaani as saying ahead of Soleimani's funeral in the capital, Tehran.
While much still remains unknown about Ghaani, 62, Western sanctions suggest he’s long been in a position of power in the organization.
And likely one of his first duties will be to oversee whatever revenge Iran intends to seek for the US airstrike early Friday that killed his longtime friend Soleimani.
“We are children of war,” Ghaani once said of his relationship with Soleimani, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency.
“We are comrades on the battlefield and we have become friends in battle.”
France, Britain and Germany called on Iran to refrain
The 'E3' group of countries comprised of France, Britain and Germany called on Iran to refrain from any violent action and urged Iran to go back to respecting arrangements laid out in the JCPOA 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The three countries also highlighted the importance of de-escalating tensions in Iraq and Iran, and reaffirmed their determination to fight Islamic State.
"We reaffirm our commitment to continuing the fight against Islamic State, which remains a priority. It is essential that we keep the coalition, in this regard. We call on the Iraqi authorities to continue to supply the necessary support to the coalition," the E3 group said in a statement.
"We are ready to continue talks with all parties in order to contribute to de-escalating tensions and re-establishing stability in the region," added the E3 group.