The third day of January marked a year since America assassinated Qassem Suleimani, a talismanic Iranian general who marshalled militias across the Middle East. The mood was febrile. American officials feared commemorative reprisals. Muhammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, tweeted that “intelligence from Iraq” indicated an American “plot to fabricate pretext for war”. The uss Nimitz, an American aircraft-carrier, having been ordered home from the Persian Gulf days earlier as a conciliatory gesture to Iran, was told to stay put. In the end, January 3rd passed without incident. Yet the day that followed was anything but uneventful.
On January 4th Iran said it had resumed enriching uranium to 20% purity, a level that is nine-tenths of the way to weapons-grade, at its underground Fordow facility. Under the terms of a nuclear deal signed by Iran and six world powers in 2015, but abrogated by America in 2018, Iran is forbidden to enrich anything at all at Fordow, let alone to such levels.