“The breakthrough is imminent”, or “just the signatures are missing” – the negotiators in Vienna announced in the spring. For a year and a half, the West has been negotiating with Iran about a new version of the 2015 nuclear agreement: Tehran restricted its nuclear program – the West lifted economic sanctions in return.
But in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump, the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal. Trump hoped to force Iran to make even more concessions with tough sanctions. Instead, the Shia regime has since broken one condition after the other.
Recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had an estimated 3,809.3 kilograms of enriched uranium — 18 times what it was allowed to have under the 2015 accord.
Particularly worrying: According to the IAEA, 43.1 kilograms of it have been enriched to a degree of purity of 60 percent. Around 50 kilograms are enough for a nuclear bomb if the material is enriched to 90 percent. From a technical point of view, enriching from 60 to 90 percent is a relatively small step.
Iran is thus de facto on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. If Tehran continues enrichment, it is estimated that it could have enough material for a nuclear bomb within weeks. According to nuclear experts, building one yourself would take about another year.
It seems that Tehran’s breakthrough to nuclear power is more likely than a new nuclear deal. What has become of it? Negotiations have been stalled for about two months.
First, the start of the Ukraine war complicated the Vienna talks. Russia suddenly demanded unscheduled guarantees that sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine would not affect future trade with Tehran. And now Iran is blocking – or, depending on your perspective, the USA.
Tehran insists that Washington remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from its list of international terrorist organizations. This is a prerequisite for sanctions against the IRGC to be lifted. But US President Joe Biden does not want to make this far-reaching concession.
And so the odds of a new nuclear deal have fallen from “ripe to sign” to “slim at best,” Biden’s special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, recently said.
In a diplomatic deadlock, Tehran is breaking one restriction after the next. According to the latest IAEA report, contrary to what it had promised, the regime has still not given a valid reason why the agency found traces of uranium at several sites that were not declared nuclear sites.
Iran has not provided “technically credible explanations,” according to the IAEA. Israel has repeatedly accused Iran of operating secret nuclear facilities. The traces of uranium discovered by the IAEA fuel this suspicion.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has accused the Iranian government of lying. In Israel’s view, Iran’s nuclear program is not aimed at purely civilian use, as declared, but at the clandestine construction of a nuclear bomb.
Israel’s government has now published documents from the Iranian nuclear archive as confirmation that the Mossad had stolen them from a warehouse in Tehran in 2018 and smuggled them to Israel. Those documents show that in 2004 and 2005 Iran stole classified IAEA documents.
With this information, the government in Tehran was apparently able to prepare specifically for inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency – and to draw up “alibis” for illegal nuclear activities and earlier plans for nuclear weapons in good time.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which was first able to see the documents from Iran’s nuclear archive, there is some evidence of deliberate deception by the IAEA inspectors. Accordingly, the documents contain a handwritten note in Persian from Mohsen Fakhrisadeh, the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Fakhrisadeh urges in the note to come up with a “scenario” as to why the company register entries were changed for a civilian company that Iran said was working on an Iranian uranium mine.
This change allowed the government to fool the IAEA that the work was being carried out by a civilian company for the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency – and not for a military nuclear program.
It is unclear how the international community of states will deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the future if no new nuclear agreement is reached.
However, Israel’s strategy seems clear: Last year, Fakhrisadeh was killed in an attack that the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad is said to have committed. And last week, an IRGC colonel was assassinated – again, the evidence points in the direction of Israel.