What happened: According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of the nuclear deal.
- The IAEA said that as of 20 May, 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 19 February.
- The IAEA further reported that Iran has been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 per cent, higher than the 3.67 per cent allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is also above the agreements limitations on heavy water.
- The Associated Press reports that: “The IAEA also raised concerns about access to two of three locations it identified in March as places where Iran possibly stored and/or used undeclared nuclear material or undertook nuclear-related activities without declaring them to international observers. The IAEA said in its current report that it had determined that one site had undergone ‘extensive sanitisation and levelling’ in 2003 and 2004 and there would be no verification value in inspecting it.”
- At the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Iran has systematically violated its commitments by hiding sites and enriching fissionable material, and has committed other violations. I believe that the time has come, and I think that the time has passed, but reality certainly requires it in the light of these revelations, for the international community to join the US and reimpose paralysing sanctions on Iran.”
- Netanyahu reiterated, “Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons and will continue to act methodically against Iran’s attempts to militarily entrench on our borders.”
Context: Iran signed the JCPOA in 2015 with the US, UK, Germany, France, China and Russia, which allowed Iran to keep a stockpile of only 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).
- US President Trump pulled the US out of the deal unilaterally in 2018. He argued the JCPOA needed to be renegotiated due to Iranian belligerence in the region and because the deal comes with an expiration date. The AP says “Iran has since slowly violated the restrictions to try and pressure the remaining nations to increase the incentives to offset new, economy-crippling US sanctions”.
- Whist world attention has focused on the coronavirus for the last three months it appears the Iranian stockpile of enriched uranium increased by over 50 per cent.
- According to former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin, “Iran has continued to stockpile enriched uranium; it has continued to operate advanced centrifuges and has shortened the time to reaching the nuclear threshold from one year to half a year.”
- According to the Jerusalem Post, “almost all of the evidence upon which the IAEA bases its claims and its probe of the Islamic Republic stem from the secret Iranian nuclear archive obtained by the Mossad in January 2018. The already mythical operation proved beyond any doubt that Iran’s nuclear programme until 2003 had been military in nature. It also proved that Iran took significant measures to try to cover up and store its nuclear military research and progress even after the 2015 nuclear deal.”
- The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday night that unidentified aircraft struck pro-Iranian sites in an eastern suburb of Deir ez-Zor Syria, near the Iraqi border. According to its report, 12 operatives were killed and vehicles and ammunition were destroyed. All the operatives were Iraqi and Afghani members of pro-Iranian militias. According to that report, three days ago, these same militias strengthened their troops in the region.
- On Thursday night there was an airstrike on a military base Hama that is used to develop weapons by the Syrian defence industries. The site is close to Hezbollah bases across the Lebanese border and is understood to be part of the group’s effort to upgrade its rockets to precision-guided missiles.
- No Israeli official has commented on these strikes, but in the past five years Israel has admitted hitting hundreds of military targets belonging to Iran or proxies inside Syria.
Looking ahead: The UN-backed arms embargo on Iran expires on 18 October. The US is hoping to renew the UN Security Council ban on selling conventional arms to Iran.
- On Friday US Ambassador Kelly Craft said she has shared a draft UN Security Council resolution with Russia that would extend the arms embargo against Iran indefinitely.