Iran is nearing a nuclear breakout that would theoretically give it the ability to build a nuclear weapon, according to data gathered by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). Since the last days of the 20th century when Iran’s nuclear program began to get serious about building a nuclear weapon, the IAEA has been looking at Tehran’s timeline for going nuclear. At that point, it was more than a decade.
But now, with a growing stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU), it’s very likely that Iran’s timeline to go nuclear has been reduced to a matter of a few days. Their stockpile of HEU enriched to 60% has been growing, albeit at a slower rate than previously reported.
According to the IAEA’s estimates, Iran now has three times the roughly 42 kg of HEU enriched to 60% that is theoretically enough, if further enriched, to produce one nuclear bomb.
The heavy lifting of enrichment has already been accomplished by Iran’s advanced centrifuges. It would take just a few days more to spin up HEU at 60% to 90% — the minimum enrichment to create a nuclear bomb.
Earlier this year, Iran got upset at the IAEA for demanding an explanation for trace readings of uranium at three undeclared nuclear sites. In retaliation, Iran removed almost all the surveillance cameras from their nuclear sites — a severe blow to the IAEA’s monitoring program and a major violation of UN sanctions.
In the spring, Iran made a deal with the IAEA to reinstall the cameras. But typical of Tehran’s perfidy, they allowed the recording of the sites but refused to give the IAEA permission to access those recordings.
“The Director General reiterates that for Agency cameras to be effective, including those installed at Esfahan, the Agency needs access to the data they record,” observed one of the reports.
Naturally, Israel, as the most interested party in this work, is not pleased.
“The IAEA Director Generals’ reports published on Iran demonstrate once again that Iran is not complying with the requirements of the International community,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan told CBS News. He added, “no further installment of new cameras on its nuclear facilities, no access provided to the cameras.”
“The most dangerous regime in the world is close to acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities and this grave threat should have been addressed by the Security Council a long time ago…We must act before it’s too late,” Israel’s U.N. envoy said.
While Iran has slowed enrichment, the IAEA reported other problems with trying to monitor its program. The report from the watchdog seen by the AP said Iran had denied visas for agency officials and affected their ability to work in other ways as well.
Iran has not acknowledged the visa denials.
Iran is still stonewalling the IAEA on the provenance of plutonium found at two undeclared nuclear sites. Questions about what kind of nuclear work was being done at these sites have been brushed off by Tehran and they’ve shown no inclination to explain themselves.
The production of HEU enriched to 60% has slowed this last year in Iran, and some ever-hopeful diplomats see that as a sign that Iran wants better relations. Pay no attention to the attacks on American servicemen by Iranian proxies or the selling of arms to Russia.
For the Biden administration, the hope is to avoid any crisis with Tehran in the lead-up to next year’s presidential elections. Critics in Washington and elsewhere say the U.S. is preparing to reward Iran for taking U.S. citizens hostage and for a minor pause in its nuclear work while Tehran ramps up regional threats and supplies military assistance to Russia for its war against Ukraine.
U.S. and European officials told Iran that if there was de-escalation of tensions over the summer, they would be open to broader talks later this year, including on Iran’s nuclear program.
Biden appears obsessed with Iran. Perhaps he sees the nuclear deal as unfinished business from the Obama administration. The way he can’t let the deal go shows an unhealthy obsession with a terrorist state. Iran will continue to string Biden along, keeping hope alive for a reimagined nuclear deal that will never be realized.