Iran’s Stockpile of Bomb-Grade Uranium Grows, Biden Presses Allies Not To Confront Iran About Nuclear

Iran has significantly increased its stockpile of near bomb-grade uranium, a development likely to heighten tensions in the Middle East as Tehran prepares for presidential elections next month. The latest nuclear-safeguards assessment, the first since the tragic deaths of Iran’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash, underscores the urgency of international scrutiny.

According to a nine-page, restricted report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) circulated among diplomats and seen by Bloomberg, Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium has risen by 17% over the last three months. The stockpile now includes 142 kilograms (313 pounds) of uranium enriched to 60% purity, an amount sufficient to fuel several warheads if Iran decides to pursue nuclear weapons.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed concerns in the report, stating, “Further public statements made in Iran during this reporting period regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and possible changes to Iran’s nuclear doctrine only increase concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations.”

This development comes amid recent missile strikes between Israel and Iran, adding to the urgency of the IAEA’s ongoing investigations into Iran’s nuclear ambitions. While the IAEA conducts daily inspections of declared atomic facilities, there are suspicions that Iranian engineers might be concealing military-related work. Tehran has been obstructing the agency’s investigation into uranium particles detected at undeclared locations.

Despite Iran’s insistence that it is not seeking to produce nuclear weapons, international mistrust led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which limited Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. However, recent statements by Iranian officials about potentially revisiting their nuclear doctrine have prompted renewed diplomatic efforts by Grossi, who visited Tehran earlier this month.

The U.S. has issued an ultimatum to Iran: cooperate or face censure, which could lead to a referral to the UN Security Council and the renewal of sanctions against Iran. The IAEA’s board is scheduled to meet again on June 3 in Vienna, where this issue will be a key agenda item.

Avoiding tensions

However, the Biden administration has also been pressing European allies to refrain from formally rebuking Iran for its nuclear advancements, seeking to avoid escalating tensions before the U.S. presidential election this autumn. Diplomats involved in the discussions told the Wall Street Journal that the administration is also preparing to abstain from the IAEA vote.

Some officials argue that censuring Iran could further destabilize the country following the recent helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

A State Department spokesperson stated, “We are increasing pressure on Iran through sanctions and international isolation as seen most recently in the coordinated G7 measures taken in the wake of Iran’s attack against Israel last month. We remain tightly coordinated with our E3 partners [France, Germany, and the UK].”

Meanwhile, some U.S. officials have advocated for increased pressure on Iran, including removing Iranian regime banks from European countries and designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul criticized the administration, stating, “It is outrageous that this administration continues to undermine our allies’ efforts to hold Iran accountable for its ongoing [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] violations.”

The IAEA report highlights the growing challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear activities. Without significant cooperation from Iran, the international community faces the difficult task of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in an already volatile region.

Information for this story was found via Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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