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DESPITE BILLIONS IN SANCTIONS RELIEF IRAN EXPANDS NUCLEAR WEAPONS CAPABILITIES

STOP IRAN NOW - Thank You Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

September 5, 2023






The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported this week that Iran expanded its nuclear weapons capabilities between May and August. Across every indicator — enrichment, centrifuge installation, new underground facility construction, facilitating IAEA monitoring and access, and cooperating with an IAEA probe into undeclared nuclear weapons work — Iran’s nuclear threats worsened over the last three months. Yet in July and August, the Biden administration brokered a deal to provide Tehran at least $16 billion in Iranian assets previously frozen in Iraq and South Korea, while allowing Tehran to dramatically increase oil exports to China through non-enforcement of U.S. sanctions.

Expert Analysis

“The Biden administration will spin Iran’s actions as a concession. But the administration’s flawed Iran policy has allowed Tehran to expand its nuclear program, and the Islamic Republic is now on the threshold to nuclear weapons.” — Anthony Ruggiero, Senior Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and Former Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for Counterproliferation and Biodefense

“U.S. policy is, de facto, underwriting the expansion of Iran’s nuclear capabilities and terrorist threats. It’s time for Congress to use its oversight rights and stop the administration from freeing up more funds for the Tehran regime.” Andrea Stricker, Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“The policy of paying Iran to roll back its nuclear capabilities has failed dramatically. The fig leaf of slowing the rate of 60 percent enrichment is too small to cover up the ongoing expansion of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related capabilities.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Iran’s Nuclear Expansion

Across its three enrichment plants, Iran reportedly increased its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 5, 20, and 60 percent, thereby advancing Tehran close to producing 90 percent, or weapons-grade uranium (WGU). Thus, Iran now remains capable of producing enough WGU for several nuclear weapons in under three months. Moreover, Iran installed a new cascade of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant, thereby expanding its enrichment capacity.

The IAEA also reported that it had made “no progress” on its nearly five-year investigation into Iran’s undeclared nuclear weapons work at two sites. Iran did not allow the IAEA to reinstall surveillance cameras at centrifuge manufacturing facilities, nor did it turn over footage and data requested by the agency. Iran also denied visas to inspectors. The agency did not report on the status of a new underground suspected enrichment facility in Iran.

Expansion Comes Alongside Major U.S. Sanctions Relief

Illicit Iranian oil exports surpassed 2.2 million barrels per day in August, Bloomberg reported on August 21. This volume exceeds the five-year high Iran reached in May as the United States declined to enforce existing U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports. The growth came as Reuters reported that $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea were transferred to Switzerland’s central bank in exchange for the release of five Iranian American hostages in Iran. It also came one month after the United States permitted Iraq to release $10 billion to pay off its natural gas import debts to Iran.

Related Analysis

How Congress Should Respond to an Interim Iran Deal,” by Richard Goldberg and Behnam Ben Taleblu

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