An advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested the Islamic Republic could increase some uranium enrichment to 60 percent as leverage to get sanctions relief from the US.
“We have to improve our diplomacy and [also] increase the uranium enrichment to 60 percent because that’s the only way to help us to remove all US sanctions,” said Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency.
Iran recently began enriching some uranium at 20 percent, the highest-level the Islamic Republic has ever attempted, which is vastly lower than the 90 percent needed for weapons-grade. The 20 percent enrichment is partially for leverage, but it also has a practical purpose.
Uranium enriched at 20 percent can be used to make fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, a facility built by the US in the 1960s that can produce medical isotopes. The 20 percent enrichment was required by a law passed by Iran’s parliament in the wake of the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian scientist who was killed in an apparent Israeli plot.
In February, Khamenei said Iran could boost enrichment to 60 percent, but made clear any steps in this direction would be reversible if the US lifts sanctions and rejoins the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to limit uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent. Since the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018 by reimposing sanctions, Tehran is no longer bound by these limits, although any increase in Iran’s nuclear activity is always framed as a “violation” by Western media.