ON the sixth anniversary of the landmark Iran nuclear deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has highlighted the failure of the United States’ so-called ‘maximum pressure campaign’ and sanctions, citing Tehran’s progress, including in the nuclear field, despite the bans.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Zarif marked the anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying, ‘6 years ago today, #JCPOA resolved a UNSC Chapter VII issue without resorting to war.’
He pointed to different approaches taken by US administrations since the deal was signed in 2015, noting they failed to achieve their goals and will continue to do so in the future, as he released a table featuring Iran’s expansion of its peaceful nuclear programme in terms of figures despite US sanctions and pressures.
‘Obama realised his “crippling sanctions” would not cripple Iran or its centrifuges. Trump ineptly thought “maximum pressure” would,’ he said in his tweet, adding, ‘Never will.’
He criticised the US addiction to the imposition of sanctions, stressing it was time for Washington ‘to kick the habit’.
Zarif’s remarks come as the fate of the historic deal is in limbo due to the US withdrawal from the accord in 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions coupled with the failure of the European signatories to shield business with Tehran in the face of Washington’s punitive measures.
US President Joe Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama’s administration when the deal was clinched, has expressed a willingness to rejoin the deal.
His administration, has, however, taken no palpable measures to that goal, and instead asked Iran to return to compliance by halting its countermeasures.
Iran says the ball is in the US’ court to prove its sincerity and goodwill by removing its sanctions in a verifiable way, as it was Washington, not Tehran, which unilaterally left the JCPOA in defiance of global criticism.
Since April, the remaining parties to the JCPOA have been holding talks aimed at reviving the deal.
The sixth in-person round of the negotiations in the Austrian capital came to an end on June 20, as participant delegations returned to their capitals for further consultation.
A clear date has yet to be decided for the start of the seventh – and likely final – round of talks in Vienna.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the delegations in the Vienna talks are reaching the final stage on the revival of the JCPOA.
‘In short, in view of the progress made thus far, it could be said that we are approaching the end of the Vienna talks. There are certain outstanding issues, but the important point is that issues resolved so far outweigh those that remain unresolved,’ Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.
‘We have come a long way so far, but the rest of the way is not going to be an easy path,’ he added.
- Iran’s outgoing government has given approval to install more than 10,000 megawatts of new power capacity by the industrial sector, an energy official says.
The country was hit by a series of power outages this month, which critics blamed much of on the government’s underperformance in establishing new power plants to keep up with runaway demand.
Heavy industries such as steel and cement bore much of the brunt after being told to cut power consumption to 10 per cent of their normal operation, media reports said.
It prompted the Ministry of Mining, Trade and Industry and the industrial sector to put an official request with the Ministry of Energy for investment in thermal power plants, head of Thermal Power Plants Holding Company (TPPH) Mohsen Tarztalab said on Tuesday.
‘We received their official request four days ago and today, a permit was issued for the construction of these combined cycle power plants so that the industrial sector, which is the most energy-intensive part of the country, can build power plants for itself,’ he said.
Hence, the construction of 10,536MW of power plants was entrusted to the industrial sector, Tarztalab said, adding it will require 6 billion euros of investment and take three years to build them.
According to Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian, Iran produces 60,000MW of electricity – 50,000MW thermal and 10,000MW hydro – ‘provided that all dams are full and all thermal power plants operating’.
Iran reached an all-time high in electricity consumption at 62 gigawatt hours in peak hours on June 22.
However, temperatures five degrees Celsius above normal in the first month of spring combined with drought led to a sharp drop in output from hydropower plants.
The searing hot and dry summer has seen the mercury reaching highs of more than 50 degrees Celsius in the major city of Ahvaz in southern Iran and consumers cranking up air conditioners.
Moreover, the craze for cryptocurrency mining has put increasing strain on electrical grids. According to Ardakanian, about 320MW has been allocated to licensed crypto mining, but estimates put the use of electricity by illegal energy-guzzling machines north of 2,000MW.
Iran has stepped up crackdown on the illegal mining of cryptocurrencies. Last month, Tehran’s police chief said 7,000 computer miners had been seized in an abandoned factory in the west of the capital, in one of the largest hauls.
Cheap state-subsidised power has attracted miners from China and elsewhere to Iran. In crypto mining, powerful computers compete with each other to solve complex mathematical problems. The first miner to solve the problem is rewarded in bitcoin and the transaction is added to the blockchain or digital ledger.
The intensity of electricity consumption began to grow in the last days of June, hitting an all-time record of 66,000MW, which caused large blackouts across the country.
Officials say household and commercial sectors account for the bulk of the sudden rise in consumption. However, the situation has stabilised in recent days and outages have become rare.
Meanwhile, initial reports citing a cocktail of high temperatures, drought and cryptocurrencies as the culprit have given way to other drains on energy.
One report lost amid a tangle of questions touched on an emergency meeting of executives of about two dozen private corporations generating 36,000MW of power.
According to media reports, the only vociferous message coming out of the meeting was that electricity prices in Iran were too low and had to be ‘balanced’.
In retrospect, Iran’s new power generation plans have been put on the back burner under the most draconian sanctions imposed on the country by the former Trump administration.
Before former US president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran in May 2018, the Islamic Republic expected its installed renewable capacity to grow at least seven-fold over the next five years.
However, Norway’s Saga Energy cancelled a $2.9 billion deal to instal 2,380MW in renewable capacity in the oil-producing country.
British firm Quercus had signed a deal to help build the world’s sixth-largest solar farm in central Iran, investing over half a billion euros, but it abandoned the project in fear of the US sanctions.
Dutch energy firm Global Renewables Investments (GRI) planned to build up solar and wind farms that could produce up to 1,700 MW of electricity, but it followed its European peers in leaving Iran.
Nevertheless, renewable energy is booming in Iran. Last year, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said Iran dominated the Middle East’s renewable production capacity which rose 13 per cent to 22,710MW in 2019.
Iran accounted for 57 per cent of the Middle East’s total in 2019 and 63 per cent in 2018, the agency said in a report.
The country’s plan is to instal 5,000 renewable energy sources by 2022, according to officials. Iran is a signatory to the 2015 Paris climate agreement committing 195 nations to limit their carbon emissions.
Scientific studies suggest that Iran can increase electricity generation from the renewables to up to 80,000 MW, of which around 80 per cent can come from the solar energy.
Increase in renewable capacity can also allow Iran to free up a significant amount of natural gas burnt in thermal power plants and feed it to export pipelines.