Iran is blocking international access to critical nuclear sites and has quickened the pace of its uranium enrichment program, shortening the time it would take the country to build a nuclear weapon, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and U.S. experts.
In violation of international accords, Iran continues to stockpile enriched uranium, the key component in an atomic weapon, and is blocking access for international inspectors seeking to provide oversight of several sites believed to be part of Iran’s clandestine program, according to a nonpublic IAEA report distributed to partner nations on Friday.
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The IAEA report indicates that Iran is in breach of safeguards enacted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is overseen by the international agency. By blocking access to several nuclear sites, Iran is preventing the agency from accounting for undeclared nuclear materials currently in use by the regime.
Iran also has made a sizable increase in the amount of low-enriched uranium it keeps in the country, another violation of U.N. mandates barring Tehran from stockpiling nuclear material. Because of this, Iran has shortened the time it needs to successfully build a nuclear weapon.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed that Iran is expanding its nuclear endeavors describing it as a "transparent attempt to generate negotiating leverage and extort the international community."
The United States will "continue imposing maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until it ceases its destabilizing activities and negotiates a comprehensive deal," the official said.
If Iran fails to abide by international laws, it will "face the consequences of even deeper and broader sanctions," according to the State Department.
U.S. officials remain "deeply concerned about Iran's ongoing refusal to cooperate with the IAEA regarding possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," the official said, adding that Iran must be forced to comply with IAEA demands.
"Iran is attempting to stall the IAEA's investigation, stating that it requires further clarification and does not want its refusal of access to be called ‘denial,’" Andrea Stricker, a nuclear proliferation expert with the Foundation For Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Free Beacon. "The IAEA is pushing back forcefully, stating there are ‘no legal ambiguities regarding the Agency's rights and obligations’ and its requests are ‘strictly in accordance with the Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol.’"
Since January, Iran has refused to permit IAEA inspectors access to two sites believed to be part of Iran’s nuclear program and currently storing undeclared materials.
There is also evidence that Iran is continuing enrichment work at its Fordow site, an underground bunker that once housed the country’s atomic weapons program. Under U.N. regulations, work at Fordow is subject to international sanctions. This evidence could also provide ammunition for the United States to petition the U.N. Security Council to enact what is known as snapback, a full reimposition of sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal signed during the Obama administration.
Iranian leaders have made clear in recent months that the country will continue enriching uranium, in violation of the nuclear accord, until European nations provide it with greater access to cash.