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Iran begins restricting short-notice nuclear inspections

  • February 23, 2021

As part of the arrangement, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization is also now withholding from the IAEA recordings made by cameras inside its nuclear facilities, but will release the footage if the sanctions are fully lifted. If three months pass and the sanctions remain in place, Iran says it will erase the data. 

The developments come as President Joe Biden seeks to rejoin the Iranian nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, before crafting a “longer and stronger” follow-on deal. 

The Biden administration has pledged to rejoin the multilateral pact, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, if Iran fully resumes compliance under the deal. But the two sides are at an impasse, with Tehran insisting Washington make the first move and lift all sanctions. 

Since former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh economic sanctions, Iran has violated its obligations. In January, Iran announced that its Fordow nuclear plant was enriching uranium to 20% purity, putting Iran in breach of the deal’s 3.67% limit, but far below the 90% needed for weapons-grade fuel

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that his country could begin enriching uranium up to 60% purity if it’s deemed necessary “to meet the country’s needs.”

Asked about Khamenei’s warning, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Monday that the administration is “concerned” by the steps Iran has taken to violate the nuclear deal. 

“This is what sounds like a threat,” Price said. “We are not going to respond in specific terms to hypotheticals, to posturing. What we are going to do is to reaffirm the proposition that is on the table.” 

Last week, the Biden administration announced it was willing to attend a meeting of the deal’s original signatories, the P5+1 and Iran, to discuss a path forward on the nuclear issue. The P5+1 refers to the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Iran had “not yet responded” to the offer, adding, “The ball is in their court.”

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