Iran has been urged to “de-escalate” its nuclear-enrichment programme over fears that it could be creating an atomic bomb.
The Russian ally has been enriching uranium, the vital ingredient for nuclear missiles, with alarming speed since Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear agreement in 2018, brokered three years earlier by the Obama administration.
Beyond that, they have been preventing inspection of their uranium programme by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an intergovernmental organisation that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in accordance with the original nuclear agreement.
The United Kingdom, alongside France and Germany, known as the E3, has now urged Iran to stop obfuscating its nuclear practices as reports emerge that the weight of its enriched uranium stockpile is over 18 times the amount permitted under the original agreement.
During a statement by the E3 to the IAEA Board of Governors on the nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), Iran was accused of being in “clear violation” of its international commitments.
Iran has recently installed additional advanced centrifuges, which spin uranium gas at high speeds to produce fuel for nuclear reactors or weapons, in one of its nuclear facilities.
It has also continued to “prepare the installation of (eight) additional advanced centrifuge cascades”, which are clusters of centrifuges, at another nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, it has blocked the IAEA from monitoring their production and inventory of centrifuges, and key components related to peaceful handling of uranium, for more than two years.
The length of this blocking has meant any return to inspection would still leave the agency “facing major challenges in establishing a new baseline to rebuild continuity of knowledge”.
They have also de-designated experienced inspectors and denied visas to IAEA officials, which the E3 suggested further signalled Iran’s “unwillingness to cooperate fully”.
The E3, in its latest statement, described the recent advancements as disturbing but said they would continue to look for ways to “address” Iran’s refusal to cooperate.
A statement read: “We will continue consultations, alongside international partners, on how best to address increasing doubts about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
“We call upon Iran to de-escalate its programme and we expect swift and meaningful further steps to implement its Joint Statement commitments on IAEA verification and monitoring. We remain committed to taking every diplomatic step to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”
Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb has been reduced from several months to less than two weeks – that estimate was made nearly four months ago, meaning this timeline could be an overestimate.
Former weapons inspector David Albright, the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said Iran would need only to use three advanced centrifuge cascades and half of its current stock of 60 percent-enriched uranium to achieve this.
That is not to say that Iran is intent on creating a bomb – one source told Express.co.uk that the Iranian “threat of making a nuclear bomb is far more potent than actually having one” – but it does highlight a widening divide between those allied to the West and those supporting Russia. It also shows the lack of influence wielded by Western allies when they do not have the backing of the US.
And though Iran’s status as a troublemaker in the Middle East has been considered waning of late after a Chinese-brokered detente with longtime enemies Saudi Arabia, the other major power in the region, the reality of that deal looks shallow and nuclear threats will only serve to worsen tensions.
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