Iran’s regime is once again at the center of a dangerous escalation of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found traces of uranium particles that had been enriched to 83.7%, just shy of 90%, regarded as weapons-grade. This is while Tehran has constantly claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. At the same time, it denies IAEA inspectors vital access to its nuclear facilities, to which it agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The alarming findings in Iran’s nuclear facilities have raised alarms among western politicians. In a recent statement, EU representatives expressed concern about “the presence of HEU particles containing up to 83.7” and said that the EU’s concerns “are exacerbated by the fact that Iran has modified the configuration of the centrifuges able to quickly produce highly enriched materials at levels considerably over 60%, without any credible civilian justification. This further undermines Iran’s argument that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.”
As tension built and politicians and experts warned about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear activities, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi made a trip to Tehran, during which Iranian officials assured him that they would adhere to their nuclear commitments. They also committed to restoring all access to UN inspectors including cameras used by the IAEA for surveillance of Iran’s nuclear sites. The meeting came ahead of an IAEA Board of Governors meeting.
However, in the past, the regime has made similar commitments only to backtrack and resume its provocative activities shortly after meeting with IAEA officials.
According to the JCPOA, Tehran had to cap its uranium enrichment at 3.67%. However, since 2021, Tehran has increased enrichment to 60%, inching its way toward weapons-grade uranium. It is also experimenting with advanced centrifuges, which will further accelerate its nuclear weapons capabilities. And the JCPOA did not prevent it from developing ballistic missiles that will allow it to launch nuclear warheads against its targets. According to many experts, the regime is a short jump away from obtaining enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.
Multiple rounds of negotiations in Vienna and other venues to bring the regime back within compliance with the JCPOA. The West has tried many initiatives to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear bombs. They all have two things in common: First, they have all failed to put a stop to the regime’s nuclear ambitions. And second, they were all based on appeasing the regime and providing it with concessions in hopes that the ruling mullahs would become good actors.
But time and again, the regime has proven that it will not negotiate in full faith. And even when it signs agreements, it exploits loopholes to continue making progress toward nuclear arms.
Now, with the regime being dangerously close to obtaining nuclear weapons, Western states must make tough decisions. Will they continue to try half-measures hoping that the regime will decide to finally act in good faith? Or will they finally embrace the reality that this regime will not back down from its nuclear ambitions and other nefarious activities without a strong political will and decisive actions to bring it to heel?