Iran starts 20% uranium enrichment, seizes S Korean tanker near Hormuz

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. enrich / ɛnˈrɪtʃ / (v) – to add or increase a desirable ingredient to something

    The company enriches their cereal with vitamins and minerals.

  2. leverage / ˈlɛv ər ɪdʒ / (n) – influence that can be used to control situations or make people do as one wishes

    The man used his knowledge of the senator’s past as leverage to get political favors.

  3. waning / ˈweɪ nɪŋ / (adj) – becoming less or smaller

    The band’s waning popularity caused them to split up.

  4. unilateral / ˌyu nəˈlæt ər əl / (adj) – involving only one person, group, or country without considering others

    Jen’s actions were unilateral and surprised everyone else on her team.

  5. escalate / ˈɛs kəˌleɪt / (v) – to become more intense, severe, or serious

    The conflict escalated into a physical fight.


Read the text below.

Iran began enriching uranium Jan. 4 to levels unseen since it signed a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 and also seized a South Korean-flagged tanker near the Strait of Hormuz, twin challenges to the West that further raise Middle East tensions.

Both decisions appeared to be aimed at increasing Tehran’s leverage in the waning days of Donald Trump’s time as U.S. president. His unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 began a series of escalating incidents.

Increasing enrichment at its underground Fordo facility puts Tehran a short step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, while also pressuring President-elect Joe Biden to quickly negotiate.

Iran’s seizure of the MT Hankuk Chemi comes as a South Korean diplomat was due to travel to the Islamic Republic to discuss the release of billions of dollars in Iranian assets frozen in Seoul.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seemed to acknowledge Tehran’s interest in leveraging the situation in a tweet about its nuclear enrichment. (AP)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think Iran’s seizure of the South Korean ship will give it an advantage in discussions about its frozen assets in Seoul, or will it just make the situation worse? Why? Discuss.
  • According to the Pew Research Center, global views of Iran are mostly negative. Do you think Iran has earned its negative reputation, or has it been judged unfairly? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 began a series of escalating incidents. Do you think the US should be blamed for Iran’s decision to increase its enrichment of uranium? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, should any country be allowed to have nuclear weapons? Why or why not? Discuss.