Iran has denied the agency access to cameras and other monitoring equipment intended to track the progress of its nuclear program, making it very difficult to know precisely how much uranium has been enriched to high levels. “When it comes to nuclear, good words are not enough,” Mr. Grossi said, adding that Iran must grant inspectors access “commensurate to the size” of its uranium enrichment program if the agency is to credibly assure that it is peaceful.
Given the steady advance in Iran’s technical knowledge and stockpile of highly enriched uranium, the country is now considered by many to be a “threshold state,” capable of making a bomb if it wishes, though Tehran denies any intention of ever doing so. That provides Iran with significant clout and could encourage other countries to pursue nuclear weapons, effectively shredding the 52-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
In July, Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said that the country now had the technical capability to produce an atomic bomb. His comments were repeated on Monday by Mohammad Eslami, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, according to the semiofficial news agency Fars.
Three weeks ago, Richard Moore, the head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, said that he doubted Iran would accept the renewal of the nuclear deal. “I’m skeptical that the supreme leader will go for the deal,” he said, referring to Ayatollah Khamenei. He added that while an agreement was on the table, and despite his belief that China and Russia would not block a deal, “I don’t think the Iranians want it.”
Still, neither Tehran nor Washington is considered likely to declare the negotiations over, because that would present complicated choices about what to do next, given the repeated vows by the United States and Israel that they will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from making a nuclear weapon. In mid-July, President Biden and Israel’s prime minister, Yair Lapid, signed a joint declaration saying that the United States would use “all elements of national power” to deny Iran the ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
The Biden administration has recently imposed further sanctions on Iran, targeting companies used by the country’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Company. Iran then announced that it was activating hundreds of new and advanced centrifuges that had previously been installed at an underground nuclear site in Natanz.