There is certainly some rumbling happening throughout the Middle East. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported this week to member states that it was “deeply concerned” about what is happening in the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are continuing to expand their stockpile of highly enriched uranium that could be used to build a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency made two reports about Iran’s nuclear program highlighting several areas where officials had serious cause for concern. One concern was that Iran failed to explain to the IAEA the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites. And apparently, some cameras that are supposed to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities have been damaged or destroyed. Finally, Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium has increased.
The Wall Street Journal made this report on recent nuclear activity in Iran: “Tensions between Iran and the agency have also grown around a second issue: IAEA access to Iran to continue monitoring its nuclear facilities and related sites, like uranium ore mines and factories producing machines that spin enriched uranium to a higher purity. Iran in February decided to end inspectors’ access to a range of nuclear facilities in response to continued U.S. sanctions. However, the agency struck a deal with Iran that agency cameras and other monitoring equipment could continue to function. Iran would collect the data and hand it over to the IAEA if the nuclear deal was revived.”
According to one official, “Iran has still not provided the necessary explanations for the presence of the nuclear material particles.” This has caused the Director-General of the IAEA to be deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at undeclared locations in Iran. It is even more concerning that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known to the Agency.
According to the report, the Director-General “reiterates that Iran’s failure to respond to the Agency’s requests for access to its monitoring equipment is seriously compromising the Agency’s technical capability to maintain, which is necessary for it to hold the regime accountable.”
The Associated Press reported that the agency estimates Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to be up to 60% fissile purity at 10 kilograms. This is an increase of 7.6 kilograms since May. They also indicated that the country’s stockpile of uranium enriched to up to 20% fissile purity is now estimated at 84.3 kilograms. This is up from 62.8 kilograms just three months earlier.
Tehran is only allowed to stockpile 202.8 kilograms of uranium under the present nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. This deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. It is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
A research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Andrea Stricker, had this to say about the IAEA’s reports, “The United States and Europe must lead the board in passing a resolution against Iran’s misconduct If member states back down against Tehran’s threatening nuclear advances, reduced monitoring, and failure to cooperate…additional states will view extortion and obstruction as appealing ways to avoid their obligations.”
Iran has not weighed in on whether the country will extend a monitoring deal with the U.N. nuclear watchdog which lapsed last week. Washington issued this warning recently that Tehran’s failure to renew it would complicate talks to revive its 2015 nuclear accord.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said this week, “No decision has been made yet, either negative or positive, about extending the monitoring deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”
On Friday, the IAEA demanded an immediate reply from Iran on whether it would extend the agreement, While U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any failure to extend it would be a “serious concern” for broader negotiations.