Speaking to reporters from the US embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, US envoy for Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams said he expects pressure on Iran to continue under a Biden administration, regardless of Biden’s pledges to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Even if you went back to the [deal] and even if the Iranians were willing to return … this newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these really fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community,” Abrams told The Associated Press.
The newly enriched uranium Abrams addressed was reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week, the watchdog that inspects Iran’s nuclear program as per the 2015 agreement. The IAEA’s latest report said Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile is now at 2,442.2 kg, which is 12 times the amount allowed under the deal of 202.8kg.
Iran has been purposely not complying with the stockpile limit since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 to gain leverage for future talks and possible sanctions relief. The uranium is still only being enriched at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than the 3.67 percent permitted under the deal, but far below the 20 percent Iran reached when negotiating the agreement with the Obama administration, and nowhere close to the amount needed for weapons-grade material, which is over 90 percent.
These moves by Iran are calculated and easy for them to reverse, so they can quickly comply with the nuclear deal despite Abram’s comments. But Abrams and the Iran hawks in the Trump administration are reportedly planning a flood of sanctions on Iran before January 20th over things not related to its nuclear program, like support for groups in Lebanon and Syria, alleged human rights violations, and its ballistic missiles program.
Abrams also addressed reports that Iran began underground construction at its Natanz nuclear facility. Abrams called the project “another Iranian challenge” to the IAEA. But the underground construction is another thing Iran has been open about, since the Israelis reportedly sabotaged the Natanz facility back in July, setting back the facility’s centrifuge program.