In a recent confidential report released by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have shown a significant slowdown. This development, which indicates that Iran is enriching uranium to levels just shy of weapons-grade, is raising questions and concerns about Tehran’s intentions. The report comes at a crucial time as Iran and the United States engage in negotiations involving a potential prisoner swap and the release of frozen Iranian assets in South Korea. This article analyzes the implications of Iran’s uranium enrichment slowdown and its potential impact on international relations.

The Iran Nuclear Deal and Its Unraveling

To understand the current situation, it is essential to revisit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under this agreement, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities to levels suitable for nuclear power generation while international sanctions against the country were lifted. The IAEA was tasked with monitoring and verifying Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal.

However, in 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the JCPOA, vowing to negotiate a more substantial deal. Consequently, Iran began to breach the terms of the agreement in 2019, escalating tensions with the international community.

Iran’s Recent Uranium Enrichment Activities

The latest IAEA report reveals that Iran has 121.6 kilograms (268 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60 percent. This represents the slowest pace of uranium enrichment growth since 2021. It is important to note that uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is just one technical step away from reaching the weapons-grade threshold of 90 percent.

Iran has consistently claimed that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. However, concerns persist that Iran could potentially develop atomic weapons given its enriched uranium stockpile. The IAEA’s director-general has even warned that Iran possesses enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs if it chooses to pursue this path.