Overnight Defense: Iran exceeds uranium stockpile limit | Trump warns Iran is ‘playing with fire’ | Trump’s Korea strategy brings high risks for 2020 | Trump getting tanks for Fourth of July event

Overnight Defense: Iran exceeds uranium stockpile limit | Trump warns Iran is 'playing with fire' | Trump's Korea strategy brings high risks for 2020 | Trump getting tanks for Fourth of July event
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Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: It took a few days longer than Tehran warned, but Iran has now stockpiled more low-enriched uranium than it is allowed to.

Iranian state media announced Monday that Iran had exceed the 300-kilogram limit on low-enrichment uranium set by the 2015 nuclear deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran’s compliance with the accord, later confirmed Iran had breached the limit.

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“In response to media inquiries, we can confirm that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano today informed the Board of Governors that the Agency verified on 1 July that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded 300kg of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms),” the IAEA said in a statement.

Trump’s response: Trump reacted to the news by saying Iran is “playing with fire.”

“They know what they’re doing,” Trump said during a bill signing in the Oval Office. “They know what they’re playing with, and they’re playing with fire. So, no message to Iran whatsoever.”

‘Maximum pressure’: On Monday afternoon, the White House issued a warning to Iran over its breach.

“Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime will continue until its leaders alter their course of action,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “The regime must end its nuclear ambitions and its malign behavior.”

The White House also included the puzzling assertion that Iran violated the deal before the deal even existed.

“There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms,” Grisham said.

Secretary of State also released a statement Monday calling on Iran to halt all uranium enrichment, as well as on the international community to “restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran’s nuclear program.”

“The United States is committed to negotiating a new and comprehensive deal with the Iranian regime to resolve its threats to international peace and security,” Pompeo said. “As long as Iran continues to reject diplomacy and expand its nuclear program, the economic pressure and diplomatic isolation will intensify.”

Iran’s argument: Despite going over the limit on uranium stockpiles, Iran holds it is not in violation of the nuclear deal.

“We have NOT violated the #JCPOA,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Monday.

Zarif’s argument hinges on paragraph 36 of the deal, a picture of which he attached to his tweet.

The paragraph lays out steps for each side to officially lodge complaints that the other is not living up to its commitments. If the issue isn’t resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, “then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part,” the deal says.

“We triggered & exhausted para 36 after US withdrawal. We gave E3+2 a few weeks while reserving our right,” Zarif added in the tweet, referring to England, Germany, France, Russia and China. “We finally took action after 60 weeks. As soon as E3 abide by their obligations, we’ll reverse.”

What’s next: For now, Iran is still only enriching to the 3.67 percent limit set by the deal — enough for power plants but far from weapons-grade.

But Iran has set another deadline for Europe to deliver benefits from the deal, after which it will increase its enrichment levels. That deadline is Sunday.

Iran has said it needs 5 percent enrichment for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr and 20 percent enrichment for a Tehran research reactor.

Twenty percent is still under weapons-grade. But once it reaches that level, it takes much less time to enrich to 90 percent, which is considered weapons-grade.

 

TRUMP STEPS INTO NORTH KOREA: If you missed it over the weekend, made some history by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to enter North Korea.

The milestone happened Sunday while Trump was greeting North Korean leader at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the Koreas.

At 3:45 p.m. Korea time, Trump and Kim shook hands across a concrete slab that forms the line separating the North and South. At Kim’s request, Trump stepped over the line, and the two men walked back toward a plaza in the North, where they posed for photos.

The leaders then met for more 50 minutes at the Freedom House on the South Korean side of the DMZ, their first meeting since their failed summit in February.

But what about a deal?: The most tangible thing that came out of meeting was Trump announcing that nuclear talks will resume.

Trump said they both agreed to “designate a team” and “work out some details.”

“Speed is not the object. We want to see if we can do a really comprehensive, good deal,” Trump told reporters. “This was a great day. This was a very legendary, very historic day.”

That essentially leaves the negotiations in the same state they were in before the February summit ended without a deal.

High stakes: North Korea wasn’t the only foreign policy effort Trump tried to revive on his Asia trip.

Trump also announced a resumption of trade talks with China.

The Hill’s Jordan Fabian took a look at how Trump’s efforts to jump-start his sputtering diplomatic efforts with China and North Korea could bring high risks to his reelection campaign.

 

TANKS A LOT: Trump appears to be getting the display of military hardware he has long wanted for Fourth of July.

On Monday afternoon, Trump confirmed there will be tanks stationed around the National Mall during his “Salute to America” event.

“We’re going to have some tanks stationed outside,” Trump said during a bill signing in the Oval Office. “You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks. So we have to put them in certain areas.”

Trump said the tanks would be Abrams tanks and “brand new” Sherman tanks — despite the fact that Sherman tanks are from the World War II era.

Trump’s confirmation came after the Washington Post reported Monday morning that officials were scrambling to fulfill his desire for tanks just days before the celebration.

The Interior Department previously announced a fly-over of military aircraft involving the Blue Angels, but not what other aircraft will participate. One of the jets used for Air Force One is expected to be involved.

Flashback: Trump has long wanted a parade of military hardware. But his original plan for a military parade on Veterans Day was scrapped after the $92 million price tag was deemed too high.

Trump blamed local Washington officials for the high cost.

D.C. officials have long opposed the plans, particularly calling out the idea of using tanks for fear of them tearing up the streets.

On Monday, the D.C. Council reiterated its opposition to tanks, tweeting “tanks but no tanks” and a picture of a March 2018 Pentagon memo saying the since scrapped military parade wouldn’t include tanks because “consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure.”

 

ICYMI

— The Hill: Turkey stockpiling US weapons parts, ahead of possible sanctions: report

— The Hill: 2020 Democratic candidates pan Trump’s North Korea visit

— The Hill: Trump’s pick for Pentagon chief wins allies on Capitol Hill

— The Hill: Opinion: Without diplomacy, the world’s major powers risk a renewed nuclear arms race

— The Hill: Opinion: It’s time for Trump to put a little pressure on Kim — and on

— Reuters: Iraq PM orders Iran-allied militias to be reined in

— Associated Press: US targets al-Qaeda militants in northern Syria

Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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