Arak facility
© AFP/SNA/Hamid Foroutan
The water facility at Arak, Iran
By threatening to leave the landmark Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran wants to renew pressure on Europe rather than get a nuclear weapon, because that would invite US raids and alienate Russia and China, analysts told RT.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that the country will leave the NPT if European states file a complaint with the UN Security Council over Iran not following the 2015 nuclear deal. Under the NPT, states that don't have nuclear weapons can't get them in the future.

"Iran's warning is real. But it doesn't mean that Iran is going to get nuclear weapons," Hamidreza Azizi, an assistant professor of regional studies at the Tehran-based Shahid Beheshti University, told RT.

"Based on the logic that has prevailed in the Iranian domestic discourse, it's a move to show Iran's ability to act independently, and to take steps in continuing our nuclear program independently."

Britain, France and Germany formally lodged a dispute procedure against Iran last week. This can eventually trigger a UN Security Council vote to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran.

Meanwhile, more politicians in Iran, including the "moderates," have been calling for the country to leave the NPT, Azizi noted.
"The logic is that Iran has actually gained nothing from the Europeans in the nuclear deal. Although Iran has adopted a step-by-step approach [to scale back its compliance with the agreement], the EU has still failed to abide by its commitments. Iran now has to take a stronger position."
The Islamic Republic began reducing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after the US abandoned the deal altogether in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the country. Tehran has since tried to convince the Europeans to provide it with some sort of sanctions relief, but no effective help was offered.

Azizi said, however, that in the end Iran may stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which allows for International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear program, instead of abandoning the treaty itself. "Otherwise, Iran will lose the support of Russia and China," he stressed.

The former head of the IAEA's Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office, Tariq Rauf, agreed that Iranians "will put themselves in a worse position than before" if they leave the NPT.

"It will make it very difficult for China and Russia to continue supporting Iran," he agreed. "Russia would then stop sending nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear reactor. So Iran is just upping the ante and putting pressure on the Europeans."

Moreover, departure from the Non-Proliferation Treaty will expose the country to military attacks from the US and Israel. "If Iran starts producing highly-enriched uranium, it's very likely that their facilities will be bombed by the US," Rauf said, explaining that developing just one nuclear weapon is insufficient for deterrence.

"Leaving the NPT is not a feasible or viable option for Iran," he said, adding that Tehran just wishes to "alert" everyone that it is continuing to seek sanctions relief.