Nuclear Issue

  • 2021-02-23

    China has renewed its proposal to convene an international meeting of all parties to the nuclear deal with Iran (JCPOA), including the United States, with the goal of discussing the US return to the agreement. On the eve of the first telephone conversation between the US and Chinese Presidents (February 11, 2021), the special US Envoy for Iran issue and the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister considered ways to coordinate moves on the JCPOA. Active mediation on the Iranian nuclear issue may be part of a broader Chinese policy aimed at promoting cooperation with the Biden administration on essential issues to the United States in exchange for preservation of China's core interests, and as part of its position as a permanent member of the Security Council. China presumes that Israel will continue to oppose an agreement with Iran and will not support Beijing's moves. Israel, for its part, should closely monitor China's moves, coordinate its policies with the United States and the Gulf states, and seek to promote dialogue at the level of the Chinese leadership, while strengthening direct contact with senior diplomats dealing with the Iranian issue.

  • 2021-02-22

    The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog met on Sunday with Iranian officials in a bid to preserve his inspectors' ability to monitor Tehran's atomic programme. It came as Iranian authorities said they planned to cut off surveillance cameras at the sites. Rafael Grossi's arrival in Tehran came against a backdrop of Iran trying to pressure Europe and the new Biden administration into returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, which former president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from in 2018. Grossi told reporters after the meeting that investigators will still be able to monitor Tehran's work for up to three months, but with less access than before.

  • 2021-02-22

    The following is the full text of the speech delivered on February 22, 2021, by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with the chairman and members of the Assembly of Experts. The meeting was held at the end of the eighth session of the Assembly.

  • 2021-02-21

    The AEOI informed the IAEA that in order to comply with the act passed by the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran called "Strategic Action Plan to Lift Sanctions and Protect Iranian Nation’s Interests" (The "Law") Iran will stop the implementation of the voluntary measures as envisaged in the JCPOA, as of 23 February 2021. In view of the above and in order for the Agency to continue its verification and monitoring activities, the AEOI and the IAEA agreed: 1. That Iran continues to implement fully and without limitation its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as before. 2. To a temporary bilateral technical understanding, compatible with the Law, whereby the IAEA will continue with its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to 3 months (as per technical annex). 3. To keep the technical understanding under regular review to ensure it continues to achieve its purposes.

  • 2021-02-12

    This week, a key figure in Iran’s security establishment signaled a potential change in the country’s nuclear calculations. Also, Iran further reduced its compliance in the nuclear deal and has detained another U.S. dual national. 

  • 2021-02-10

    After four years of instability and a constant risk of regional conflict under the Trump administration, it is now time for a unified transatlantic approach that is realistic about what is possible with Iran. Rather than complicating a US return to the nuclear deal in a fashion that risks closing the door to all negotiations, Europeans should declare clear support for a focused approach on preserving this critical agreement. By doing so, they would also widen the space for negotiations with Iran on regional security.

  • 2021-02-08

    By stating initial terms that he knows Washington will not meet right now, the Supreme Leader is once again signaling his lack of interest in returning to full JCPOA compliance—at least not before President Rouhani leaves office in August. In one of his few in-person speeches since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated on February 7 that Iran would not pull its nuclear program back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action until “America lifts all sanctions.” Addressing an audience of air force commanders, he laid out his stance in no uncertain terms: “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, America should lift the sanctions entirely, in practice not in words. Then we verify it and see if sanctions are properly lifted before we return to the JCPOA’s commitments...This is the Islamic Republic’s irrevocable and definitive policy, and a matter of consensus between the country’s officials.” He also responded to remarks that President Biden gave to CBS News earlier in the day: “Americans and Europeans have no right to stipulate and place conditions due to their violation of their JCPOA commitments. The party that should rightfully place conditions is the Islamic Republic, because it is committed to [the JCPOA].” 

  • 2021-02-02

    According to Obama, by entering the JCPOA, the US made it possible to “strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.” The JCPOA was “not dependent on anticipating those changes. If they don’t change at all, we’re still better off having the deal.” Obama’s point of view was driven by US intelligence assessments which, in 2015, put Iran’s “breakout times” at two or three months. By entering the JCPOA, the US was “purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year ... that – that if they decided to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade.” The important takeaway is what Obama said next. “And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves. We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.” In short, if Iran did not use the JCPOA as a vehicle to understand that it did not need a nuclear program, and voluntarily abandon its nuclear activities, then the US would take action that would prevent the ‘sunset clauses’ from ever expiring. Unfortunately for Obama, Biden, and the proponents of the JCPOA, Trump wasn’t willing to play that game. Recognizing that the underlying logic behind the Obama approach to the JCPOA was predicated on the belief that Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions were only being temporarily delayed by the ‘sunset clauses’, Trump simply withdrew from the agreement, moving the time for presidential action forward by a decade. In many ways, Trump’s approach to Iran, while fundamentally flawed, was at least honest. The same cannot be said about the Obama administration which negotiated the original deal, or the Biden administration which is now compelled to deal with the fallout of Obama’s deceit and Trump’s actions in response to that deceit. Time is running out for Biden and Blinken if they hope to revive the JCPOA. Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament has set a deadline of February 21 for the US to lift sanctions that had been reimposed when Trump removed the US from the JCPOA. If the US fails to act, then Iran will likely suspend the enhanced inspections of its nuclear sites by the IAEA, and further increase its uranium enrichment capacity. 

  • 2021-01-31

    In this meeting, Imam Khamenei stated that the side with the right to set conditions for the continuation of the JCPOA deal is Iran, and its irrevocable condition is that the United States must remove all sanctions, and not just on paper but in action. Imam Khamenei stated, “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the US should remove all sanctions in action. After they have done this, we will check if the sanctions have truly been removed. Once this is done, we will resume our JCPOA commitments.” 

  • 2021-01-28

    The net result of Iran’s uranium metal factory would be to turn 20 percent enriched UF6 into another form that is not suitable for enrichment. That is a commendable nonproliferation goal. When the IAEA totals Iran’s inventories of LEU and different forms of material—such as UF6 or fuel compounds—the 20 percent material no longer in enrichable form should be inventoried as material no longer appropriate for a weapons program. However, there are a few other footnotes about Iran’s production of uranium metal that are concerning. Iran could gain industrial knowledge of how to make weapons metal that could be useful in the future. A first-generation uranium nuclear weapon uses about 12 kilograms of weapons-grade metal, according to open sources. That is a very small amount especially if one weapon per year is a goal. It can be done in a small industrial laboratory, not a factory. On the other hand, natural uranium—and depleted uranium—can be used in armor-penetrating conventional bullets. These bullets are deadly and effective in conventional engagements between tank armies,. The quantities needed for a military campaign are in the tens or hundreds of tons, as the US has demonstrated in places such as Kuwait and Kosovo. This requires a factory, but the material is not enriched at all and, thus, is completely different from a nuclear weapons program. Iran’s growing stockpile of 20 percent UF6 is far less worrisome when it is converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment. This is a nonproliferation victory.

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