Iran Nears an Atomic Milestone

Iran Nears an Atomic Milestone

“I’m not going to put a date on it,” he told reporters, “but we’re getting closer to the point where a strict return to compliance” with the old agreement “doesn’t reproduce the benefits that agreement achieved.”

He stated that “as time passes and Iran continues to make advances in its nuclear program, such as spinning more sophisticated centrifuges, enriching more material, and learning more, there will come a point when it will be very difficult to regain all of the benefits” of the restrictions agreed to by Iran six years ago. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there,” he added.

The next few weeks are considered critical. The opening of the United Nations General Assembly is traditionally a time for back-room diplomacy, particularly with regard to Iran, and officials from the new Iranian government, including the new foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, are expected to make their debuts. Mr. Amir Abdollahian, a hardliner, has indicated a willingness to renew the agreement — but only on terms that the new government can claim are vastly improved.

According to outside experts, both Iran and North Korea, which fired a new cruise missile on Sunday that demonstrated its ability to avoid missile defenses, see this as an opportunity to put the Biden administration to the test.

“There is an eerie similarity between what we are seeing in Iran with enrichment and what we are seeing in North Korea with the cruise missile test,” said Rose Gottemoeller, a former arms control official in several administrations who now works at Stanford University. “They’re both attempting to sway the negotiating table in their favor as the Biden administration turns to them.”

On Sunday, Iranian officials reached a temporary agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director-general, Rafael M. Grossi, to allow the agency to reset monitoring devices used to track the country’s nuclear program’s progress. In recent months, agency inspectors have been blinded in their efforts to monitor some facilities, which is a growing source of concern among American officials, who are concerned that nuclear material will be diverted.

The agreement averts an immediate inspection crisis, assuming the inspectors are allowed to regain access to their cameras and other equipment and restart them. However, it does not address the country’s desire to restart uranium production — and enrich at levels far higher, and thus much closer to bomb-grade material — than it did prior to 2015.

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Iran Nears an Atomic Milestone