Iran is blocking United Nations atomic agency inspectors’ access to nuclear-related sites and continues to expand its nuclear activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in two confidential reports Tuesday, ratcheting up a clash with Tehran that could stymie efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
The reports leave the Biden administration and its European allies facing a choice between pushing for a formal rebuke of Iran—which Tehran’s new hard-line government has warned could scuttle the resumption of nuclear talks—or refraining from action, potentially undercutting the authority of the IAEA and its leadership.
The future of the nuclear deal is already in the balance. New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, pressed by European and U.S. officials to quickly resume the talks on restoring the deal, has said his government is prepared to return to the Vienna negotiations but refused to fix a date. The last talks took place in June.
European and U.S. officials have said the period for reviving the nuclear deal isn’t open-ended. They are concerned that with Iran expanding its nuclear activities and knowledge, it may soon be impossible to recreate a centerpiece of the 2015 deal, keeping Iran at least one year from being able to accumulate enough weapons-grade enriched uranium for one weapon.
Senior U.S. and European negotiators will meet Friday to discuss the situation, according to diplomats. The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the IAEA’s findings or the international diplomatic response.
Iran’s foreign ministry this week warned that neither side in the nuclear talks should "make a miscalculation and move in a direction that will impact the negotiations in Vienna." On Tuesday evening, Iranian media cited Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA saying that despite extensive agency access to sites in Iran, the agency "is seeking to exaggerate issues under pressure from certain members." Iran’s mission in Vienna didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.