By TIPPInsights Editorial Board, TIPP Insights
Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had two important pieces of news to share with the world.
First, Iran’s uranium stockpile has grown to 43.3 kilograms (95 pounds). Iran has increased it by 10 kilograms over the past three months.
Second, Iran failed to come clean with explanations about traces of nuclear material found in three undeclared sites in Iran. The IAEA said that Iran had not provided technically credible explanations about the Agency’s findings at those locations.
The IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors meets on Monday.
When a country acquires nuclear capability, it “breaks out” to become a nuclear power. The “breakout time” refers to the time it would take to develop nuclear weapons capability from its current state.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran’s “breakout time” for developing nukes has dropped from one year “down to a matter of weeks.” The issue with a short breakout period is that Iran could enrich enough uranium for a weapon between IAEA inspections.
The Obama administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, in 2015. It limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for its ability to participate in global trade. In 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement and resorted to its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran. Iran started to expand its nuclear activities, triggering an alarm in Western capitals.
Iran has always claimed that its nuclear activities are purely peaceful. But, it increased uranium enrichment to weapons-grade levels since U.S. withdrawal.
The Biden administration wants to rejoin the JCPOA and held talks in Vienna over the past year. The administration promised a longer, more robust agreement. Tehran refused to negotiate directly with the United States. Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia negotiate the agreement with U.S. consultation.
The Biden administration is willing to remove sanctions imposed by Trump in exchange for Iran’s returning to full compliance. The negotiations produced a draft agreement in March that would extend the breakout period to nine months instead of two weeks.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict that broke out in late February has been a distraction. The negotiations have fizzled out. The U.S. is unwilling to comply with Iran’s recent demand to drop Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the terrorist blacklist. The issue is outside of the JCPOA.
The European Union’s top diplomat warned on Saturday that the chances of reviving the 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief were dwindling.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, May 25, the Wall Street Journal broke a story based on documents obtained by Israeli intelligence from Iran’s nuclear archives. The story showed that Iranians had misled U.N. inspectors 17 years ago. The Israeli Prime Minister Bennett’s office published the original documents in Persian with English translations.
PM Bennett also shared a video on social media. The video showed the documents and said it was proof that Iran was lying to the IAEA. On Friday in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Bennett met with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi and accused Tehran of deceiving the world about its atomic activities.
Israel has expressed its intention to use its “right to self-defense” to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambition. The recent “Chariots of Fire” exercise trained thousands of its troops, aircraft, and ships to fight on multiple fronts, including an attack on Iran.
With hopes of JCPOA revival stalled, the Biden administration finds itself at crossroads. As a goodwill gesture, the administration had waived some sanctions from the Trump era earlier this year. The move sent the wrong message and lowered the pressure on Iran.
The State Department argued that the waivers should not be considered a concession to Iran. Rather, they were “designed to facilitate discussions that would help to close a deal.” Iran sensed the administration’s desperation, and the action emboldened Iran to make even more demands.
In light of the latest revelations, the Biden administration must pull back. For starters, the United States, France, Britain, and Germany should petition the IAEA’s Board of Governors to censure Iran for failing to explain long-standing questions about uranium traces at undeclared sites.
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