European concerns over Iran's nuclear escalation

The International Atomic Energy Agency has detected "uranium particles" at an undeclared site, in violation of the 2015 agreement.

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani on November 11 in Rafsanjan.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani on November 11 in Rafsanjan. AP

European capitals still affected by the July 2015 agreement on Iran's nuclear power – which the United States withdrew in May – are increasingly worried by Tehran's repeated snags at its commitments.

The latest report, Monday evening, 11 November, from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) further increased these concerns. Its inspectors claim to have detected "Natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin" – that is to say due to human activities – in a place, in Iran, not declared to the IAEA.

The Vienna-based agency, guarantor of the implementation of the 2015 agreement, had asked Tehran questions about a place reported by Israel, and had sampled this site in Turquzabad district, near the capital. The IAEA has also confirmed that Iran, as announced on November 5, has resumed uranium enrichment activities at its underground facilities in Fordo, a further violation of its commitments.

"The inspection scheme negotiated in Vienna under the agreement is the most intrusive in the world"

"We have entered a phase of significant worsening of the situation", sighs a Western diplomatic source, noting that "For the first time since July 2015, Iran is outside the scope of the agreement (…) and that represents a profound change of strategy. " These traces of uranium are in fact the index of a clandestine nuclear activity, even if its nature is not yet clear. This is all the more serious since, for the first time, the Iranian authorities began to obstruct the work of IAEA inspectors deployed on the ground, blocking an inspector at the Natanz plant on 28 October, the main site under surveillance. "The inspection scheme negotiated in Vienna under the agreement is the most intrusive in the world. Inspectors can go almost anywhere they want, when they want it with very short notice, " says Benjamin Hautecouverture, Foundation for Strategic Research.

Read also Iranian nuclear: IAEA detects "uranium particles" at undeclared site

This incident remains for the moment isolated, but it is another signal of the will of Iran to test the Western determination and especially to free from all its obligations. With the agreement of July 2015, the "breakout time", that is to say the time it would take Iran to produce a nuclear bomb if it decided, was one year. This gave the Westerners time to react, including a bombing campaign. "We are coming to a point where what the Iranians are doing is going to have a significant effect on breakout time," worries a source close to the file.


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