Iran’s uranium enrichment program has increased its production rate by 17 percent in recent months and by 84 percent since 2009, according to a new study by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Author Greg Jones projected that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to fuel a nuclear weapon in about 62 days if it chose to do so.
Jones based his estimate on data drawn from the May 24 report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which spelled out in greater detail than ever before the growing concerns that the U.N. nuclear agency harbors about Iran’s nuclear program and the fact that “Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation” to address these concerns.
Under the leadership of Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, the IAEA has become more aggressive in pushing Tehran for answers, but it continues to be frustrated by the stonewalling tactics of Iran’s defiant government. The IAEA had long treated Iran with kid gloves under the questionable leadership of Mohamed ElBaradei, who exploited his office to posture against the United States and advance his own political ambitions. After leaving the IAEA in 2009, ElBaradei returned to Egypt, where he now is running as a candidate in Egypt’s presidential election later this year.
Amano pressed Iran for greater cooperation on the nuclear issue in a May 6 letter, and he may order the IAEA to go ahead with a damning report on Iran’s weaponization efforts in the coming months. This would be a long-overdue change from ElBaradei’s foot-dragging and downplaying of Iran’s failure to abide by its nuclear safeguard commitments. But it may be too little, too late.
Nuclear proliferation expert Gary Milhollin warned: “The Iranian strategy is to do as much as they can to get as close as they can to nuclear weapons capability without provoking a big response from the outside world. So far it’s been working pretty well. They’ve been stopping just short of provoking a military response.”
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