Over the past three months of global lockdowns due to the coronavirus, Iran’s nuclear development has been busy, apparently. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday circulated a confidential report seen by Associated Press which details the Islamic Republic’s nuclear stockpile rose by a whopping over 50% in the three months prior to May 20.
“The agency said that as of May 20, Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium amounted to 1,571.6 kilograms (1.73 tons), up from 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons) on Feb. 19,” AP reports.
Tehran months ago vowed to break from its commitments under the Obama-brokered JCPOA until the biting American-led sanctions regimen is eased. Officials warned Europe that if action weren’t taken major nuclear milestones would be reached.
This has also included enriching uranium up to a purity of 4.5%, blowing past the 3.67% ceiling stipulated under the JCPOA. The IAEA report also noted “with serious concern that, for over four months, Iran has denied access to Agency… to two locations.”
Recently reports suggested IAEA inspectors were being blocked in part on Iranian authorities’ concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“The [IAEA] director general calls on Iran immediately to cooperate fully with the agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified,” the report said, however like other warnings this is likely to fall on deaf ears, given Iran’s economy has been decimated, further at a sensitive moment a large chunk of the population and failing health system have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report comes a mere day after President Trump suggested there could be a fresh opening with Iran to ‘negotiate a better deal’ – as he’s long sought after withdrawing from the nuclear deal in May 2018. “Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump said in a rare positive tweet regarding the Islamic Republic on the occasion of the return of Navy Veteran Michael White from an Iranian prison.
We achieved humanitarian swap *despite* your subordinates’ efforts, @realDonaldTrump
And we had a deal when you entered office. Iran & other JCPOA participants never left the table.
Your advisors—most fired by now—made a dumb bet.
Up to you to decide *when* you want to fix it. pic.twitter.com/TFg698pWS9
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 5, 2020
But the Iranians immediately poured cold water on that prospect, given Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reminded the US president, “we had a deal when you entered office.”
The Iranian position has been that it will never reenter negotiations until Washington removes sanctions, and returns to the 2015 deal it signed in the first place.