International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference during a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2021.

US, EU Call On Iran To Dilute 60% Uranium, Stop Short Of Censure

Wednesday, 03/06/2024

The US is expressing deep concern over Iran's expanded nuclear activities, urging Tehran to dilute its near-weapons-grade uranium.

In a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, the US emphasized the need for Iran to down-blend its entire 60-percent uranium stockpile and cease production of uranium enriched to 60 percent.

This call comes after the head of the UN nuclear watchdog informed the Board that his agency has lost crucial "continuity of knowledge" regarding Tehran’s activities.

While Iran has failed to cooperate with the IAEA on multiple issues since 2021 – recent points of friction between Tehran and the agency are piling up.

During the agency's regular meeting in Vienna, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted concerns, including the deactivation of surveillance devices, barring of senior inspectors, and refusal to disclose new nuclear facilities.

These actions have heightened fears of clandestine nuclear expansion.

Yet, Grossi maintained that he does not have any information that Iran is making a nuclear weapon.

"What I would say is that Iran is the only country that does not have a nuclear weapon that is enriching at 60% and is accumulating uranium enriched at 60%," Grossi said in the same breath.

US refuses to back censure resolution

While Wednesday's statement from the US called on the IAEA Board to be ready for further action if Iran's cooperation does not significantly improve, Iran avoided censure for its non-compliance.

Reports suggest that since President Joe Biden took office, the US advanced a censure resolution on Iran, on one occasion.

On the sidelines of the IAEA meeting, an EU diplomat told Iran International that there hasn't been any discussion about issuing a resolution against Iran for its non-compliance.

Andrea Stricker, Deputy Director of the FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program, characterized this as policy paralysis, highlighting the lack of US leadership.

The nuclear expert from a Washington DC-based nonpartisan research institute points out that European leaders aim to retain the option of reimposing all UN sanctions if Iran reaches 90% enriched uranium, considered nuclear weapons-grade.

However, she says, by producing 60% highly enriched uranium, Iran has already completed most of the process to obtain weapons-grade uranium.

Therefore, the European red line is effectively meaningless, Stricker told Iran International.

Meanwhile, Director-General Grossi says there are no talks with Iran – and none are scheduled.

"I hope I will have an opportunity to talk to them in person, as soon as possible. I cannot go if they don't invite me. So whenever they feel that they are ready to talk to me, I will be more than happy to return," he said.

But, so far, Tehran has indicated that nuclear compliance will only come when the US lifts sanctions on the country.

Republican Senators push for action

Leading up to the IAEA meeting this week, several Republican Senators penned a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging for a comprehensive review of Iran’s nuclear program by the UN’s Security Council.

They emphasized the importance of US leadership in maintaining global non-proliferation standards, writing that the “stakes could not be higher”.

“The US must be active in deterring the Iranian regime’s rapid nuclear arms advancement under the Biden Administration,” Senator Rubio wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Complicating matters further for the US and the West is the ongoing conflict in Gaza, sparked by an attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian proxy and designated terrorist organization.

According to the latest reports, Western leaders do not want to risk further diplomatic escalation with Tehran.

Iran could ‘contemplate nuclear breakout’

Stricker, along with other nuclear experts, advocates for the IAEA Board of Governors to enforce measures outlined in its statute, including sanctions or other punitive actions.

She points out that during the pre-nuclear deal era, multilateral pressure and sanctions effectively slowed Iran's advances.

Failure for Tehran to meet these demands for compliance, on a deadline, should then “result in referring Iran's case to the UN Security Council”.

But, Stricker does not foresee the West mounting massive international pressure on Iran – or levying a credible threat of military force in retaliation.

“I do not see that happening under Biden, and we should expect Tehran to try to reap the benefits of Biden's remaining time in office in case it faces a second Trump administration and the return of maximum economic pressure,” she said.

With that Stricker says, Tehran knows that next year could prove to be opportune for it to contemplate a nuclear breakout.

“The regime may decide that now is the time, and this is the weakest American leadership it can hope for, to secure its future hold on power with the ultimate deterrent,” she said.

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