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Iran nuclear: Tehran is closer than ever to a nuclear weapon as Biden runs out of options

Tehran has stepped up uranium enrichment at an unprecedented pace since the signing of a major deal in 2015, which saw Iran halt uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief, before former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Analysts believe Tehran may already have the materials needed to produce nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, Iran turned off security cameras used by the international nuclear watchdog IAEA to monitor activities at the country’s key nuclear facilities. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi warned that this move could deal a “deadly blow” to negotiations aimed at reviving the nuclear deal.

IAEA chief Raphael Grossi told CNN that the lack of footage from nuclear facilities left the nuclear deal negotiators without data – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – making it “technically impossible to reach an agreement”. Thursday.

“Or you can (an agreement) based on no information, which I’m guessing won’t happen,” Grossi said. “That’s why we say it’s a very serious thing. It has consequences. Of course there are.”

The nuclear watchdog said Iran was weeks away from owning a 'significant amount'.  enriched uranium

Iran has also begun installing advanced centrifuges in a cluster at an underground enrichment facility, according to Reuters, which has seen an IAEA report describing increased nuclear activity in Iran. The reported incident comes after the IAEA’s governing body approved a decision that it failed to disclose traces of uranium found in three undeclared sites.

The acceleration of Iran’s nuclear program comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the United States. Talks around the JCPOA have stalled as Tehran’s growing pressure to delist the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite arm of the Iranian Armed Forces, from its terrorist organization list. This is believed to be the final point of agreement of nearly one and a half years of negotiations between the two countries.

Both sides have so far refused to make any concessions on this issue, thanks to domestic political pressures in their respective countries.

In his final weeks in office, Trump listed the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. The decision has been dubbed the “poison pill” by his critics, who have accused Trump of throwing a wrench into the cogs of future negotiations on the restoration of the JCPOA.

Dangerous days are at hand

The stalled negotiations have dangerous consequences for the region.

Dina Esfandiary, senior adviser to Crisis Group Middle East and North Africa, said: “While both the United States and Iran are dealing with many of the techniques for returning to the nuclear deal, differences remain in areas that are largely symbolic.” said.

As a result, Iran is now attacking by increasing the pressure,” he said.

When Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, it launched an overwhelming wave of sanctions against the Iranian economy. The US government found that Tehran at the time was continuing to abide by the agreement. But as with many Obama-era policies, Trump was intent on undoing the landmark nuclear deal, citing Iran’s continued involvement in the Middle East through paramilitary groups aligned with Tehran.

U.S. President Joe Biden, an ardent opponent of Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran, reignited negotiations when he took office. But Biden’s policy has so far failed to revive the deal, and Iran has steadily raised the stakes, violating the deal’s end.

“Iranians have seen no benefit from the JCPOA since 2018,” said Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute. “The IAEA saw the benefits. Others saw the benefits because the Iranians were generally in tune.”

“It was only a matter of time before it ended, and Iranians were like, ‘well, if we’re not getting something for it, why should you buy it,’ Parsi said. he would say.

The US has warned that Iran's latest actions could lead to a 'deepening nuclear crisis'.

According to analysts, there are those who say that Iran is roughly a year away from producing nuclear weapons and that the region can now act relentlessly against further escalation.

In 2019, satellite imagery showed the construction of an experimental nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia, where “exploratory” was making progress. The United Arab Emirates also has a nuclear program. The nuclear activities of both of these countries seem to take place under the assurances of the IAEA. Still, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran could spiralize the already weak security situation and raise the specter of a nuclear arms race in the unstable region.

Meanwhile, Biden has run out of options, given that the US has imposed sanctions on Iran under the Trump administration.

The sanctions dealt a heavy blow to its economy, but did not destroy it, and Iran is likely to become desensitized to further economic punishment. Israel’s assassinations of top officials in recent years — including a prominent nuclear scientist — have also failed to prevent Iran from enriching uranium.

This may lead the United States and its allies to consider pursuing a military option.

A war against Iran could collapse its nuclear program, but in addition to dragging the United States into a region it is trying to leave, it could wreak indescribable havoc on the region as a whole.

“Some of the most aggressive escalations by Iran to step up the program have come under the auspices of Biden, not Trump,” Parsi said. “Because Biden continued Trump’s policy.”

Mostafa Salem and Becky Anderson of CNN contributed to this report.

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