New Iran sanctions more likely, or less, after nuclear bomb report?
New report that Iran is amassing more low-enriched uranium – and has enough to make two nuclear bombs – is likely to spur the move toward tougher sanctions. But Israel's raid on Gaza aid flotilla may stall any international action on Iran.
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The report also confirmed that Iran has amassed a stockpile of low-enriched uranium large enough to produce two nuclear weapons if purified to the requisite 90-percent level. That fact was already known, but confirmation appears likely to knock further support out from under the agreement announced last month among Iran, Brazil, and Turkey to remove about half of Iran’s stockpile to Turkey.Skip to next paragraph
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The prospect of leaving a bomb’s worth of low-enriched uranium in Iran made the so-called tripartite agreement a nonstarter for the US and other Western countries.
The IAEA report documents that Iran is producing about 3 kilograms of 20-percent uranium a month, which Mr. Albright says “suggests this particular centrifuge cascade is not having any problems.” Centrifuges are the machines that spin at high rates to further purify low-enriched uranium.
“What this report tells us is that Iran’s centrifuge program is broadening and deepening,” Albright says, meaning it is improving technically even as it undertakes new chores like high purification.
Uranium purification equipment gone missing
The IAEA report also confirms that certain equipment for uranium purification that it took note of in an earlier report has gone missing. The equipment in question can be involved in production of the uranium metal needed to produce a nuclear weapon.
“Even China is going to look at this and raise its eyebrows,” Albright says.
But Heritage’s Mr. Phillips is not so sure. “The Brazilian-Turkish fuel deal has given China and Russia the cover to push for even more gutting of the proposed resolution, and I fear now this flotilla incident will only add to that,” he says.
Still, Albright says the resolution will be “worthwhile” if it does pass, because it would open the way for the US and some European countries to proceed to harsher “and more meaningful” additional sanctions on their own. “China will toughen its enforcement of council measures after this [IAEA] report,” he adds, “and that’s going to really hurt Iran.”
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