Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi takes part in an interview with Reuters at the IAEA headquarters, in Vienna, on Dec. 16, 2020.

LISI NIESNER/Reuters

World powers and Iran have weeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal after Tehran began to enrich uranium at higher levels and Iran’s parliament threatened to curb the access of UN inspectors next month, the head of the global atomic watchdog said on Monday.

Iran started pressing ahead with plans to enrich uranium to 20 per cent fissile strength at its underground Fordow nuclear plant last week, a level Tehran achieved before striking the deal with world powers to contain its disputed nuclear ambitions.

The Islamic Republic’s latest breach of the nuclear agreement since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2018 may complicate efforts by President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, to rejoin the pact.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s not for me to say what to do, but it’s clear that we don’t have many months ahead of us, but rather weeks,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi said in an interview for the Reuters Next conference, when asked how much time was left to reach an agreement on bringing Iran back into compliance.

Iran’s parliament passed legislation in December that obliges the government to enrich to 20 per cent purity.

That law also says that if obstacles to Iran’s sale of oil are not lifted and banking transactions normalized by Feb. 21 – both areas have been crippled by Trump’s sanctions – it will end the sweeping inspection powers given to the IAEA by the nuclear deal, limiting inspections to declared nuclear sites only.

The IAEA currently has the power to carry out short-notice inspections at locations not declared to it by Iran, given that under the deal Tehran is applying the UN watchdog’s so-called Additional Protocol, an agreement between the agency and member states that grants inspectors more intrusive access.

“I wouldn’t like to receive a communication that because of the deadline of Feb. 21 the presence of my inspectors in Iran is going to be reduced,” Grossi said, likening any such a move to North Korea’s past expulsion of IAEA inspectors.

“That would be bad news.”

Tehran began violating the 2015 accord in 2019 in a step-by-step response to Trump’s pullout in 2018 and his reimposition of U.S. sanctions that had been rescinded under the deal.

Story continues below advertisement

RAPID ENRICHMENT PROGRESS

The 2015 agreement’s main objective was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb – if it chose to – to at least a year from roughly 2-3 months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

“I must take it (the threat of more limited access) seriously because it is the law,” Grossi said, referring to the legislation, adding that he had to believe the Iranian government intended to implement it.

The Argentine diplomat said Iran was progressing “quite rapidly” in moving to 20 per cent enrichment and that based on estimates it would be able to produce about 10 kg a month at Fordow, which is built under a mountain to withstand any aerial attack.

Iran previously breached the deal’s 3.67 per cent limit on the purity to which it can enrich uranium, but it had only gone up to 4.5 per cent so far, well short of the 20 per cent level and of the 90 per cent that is bomb-grade. Iran denies any intent to weaponize enrichment.

Grossi stressed that quick diplomacy would be needed to set out an additional text on how to reverse Iran’s breaches.

Biden has said he will bring the United States back into the deal – reached when he was vice president under then-President Barack Obama – if Iran resumes strict compliance with it.

Story continues below advertisement

“There will have to be a clear understanding on how the initial terms and provisions of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) are going to be recompiled with …, putting the toothpaste back in the tube,” Grossi said.

He thought this would be possible by Feb. 21.

Iran has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday, breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal. Reuters

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies