"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
Kelsey Davenport

U.S. Seeks Iran Arms Embargo Extension | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

U.S. Seeks Iran Arms Embargo Extension The United States is considering a range of options to prevent the October 2020 expiration of a UN embargo that restricts arms sales to and from Iran. Those options include making a legal case that the United States remains a bona fide participant of the nuclear deal with Iran that it withdrew from in May 2018 in order to use a Security Council provision to block the embargo’s expiration. The embargo’s October 2020 expiration date is written into UN Security Council Resolution 2231 , which endorses and helps implement the nuclear deal, formally called...

Video Short: U.S. Policy Toward Iran and the Nuclear Deal



My name is Kelsey Davenport and I am the director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association.

Why did the Trump administration withdraw the United States from the 2016 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran?

The 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran resolved a decadeslong crisis over that country's nuclear program by putting in place intrusive monitoring and stringently limiting Iran's nuclear activities. Despite international inspectors and the U.S. intelligence community assessing that Tehran was complying with that deal, President Trump repeatedly referred to the agreement as a failure and in May of 2018 withdrew the United States from the agreement and we imposed US sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration has subsequently pursued a maximum pressure campaign against Tehran designed to push Iran to negotiate not only on its nuclear program but restrictions on its ballistic missile activities and activities in the region.

How have Iran and the other parties to the agreement responded to Trump's actions?

Unsurprisingly, there were many parties to the deal, and Iran opposed the U.S. withdrawal and reimposition of sanctions. Now, for the first year after Trump embarked on this pressure campaign, Iran continued to abide by the deal and worked with the Europeans, Russia, and China to try and reconstitute some sanctions relief envisioned by the agreement. However, after a failure to develop any meaningful trade within that year, Iran began to take steps in May of 2019 to violate the deal. Now, these steps have been incremental, they are quickly reversible, and they don't constitute an immediate proliferation risk. It's clear that what Iran is trying to do is pressure the remaining parties to the deal to deliver on sanctions relief so that the deal delivers some benefits to Iran.

How can the United States and Iran step back from confrontation and prevent a new proliferation crisis?

The Trump administration's current maximum pressure campaign toward Iran increases the risk that the JCPOA will collapse and that a conflict will ignite in the region. A much more effective approach for the United States would be to return to compliance with the JCPOA alongside Iran and for both sides to agree to engage in negotiations that address areas of mutual concern. This could include a longer-term framework to guide Iran's nuclear program and addressing areas like Iran's ballistic missile activities and Iran's activities in the region. In return, the U.S. is going to have to put something on the table that's attractive to Iran—likely more effective sanctions relief. But if the United States takes this approach, it could meet U.S. security needs and prevent a new nuclear crisis from igniting in the Middle East, a crisis that the United States and the international community can ill-afford at this time.

For more information about the status of the nuclear deal with Iran and updates on other important arms control issues, visit armscontrol.org/getthelatest for our updated news and analysis.


Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, discusses the aftermath of the Trump administration withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 multilateral agreement that placed limits on Iran's nuclear program.

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Iran Announces Nuclear Goals

May 2020
By Kelsey Davenport

Iran’s nuclear agency announced that it has developed a new type of centrifuge and described an ambitious plan for expanding its uranium-enrichment program, but it is unclear if or when Tehran’s leaders will take steps to scale up the country’s enrichment capacity.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran speaks to the media in June 2018. In April, he said Iran would continue its uranium enrichment activities. (Photo: Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA)In a March 27 announcement, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said that a new generation of centrifuge machines will be unveiled at the Natanz enrichment facility “in the near future.”

Under the terms of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is permitted to design new centrifuges, but must seek approval before building prototypes and testing new models.

It does not appear that Tehran sought or received authorization to build the new centrifuges from the Joint Commission, the body set up by the JCPOA to oversee implementation of the deal. Iran announced in September that it would no longer be bound by the JCPOA’s restrictions on centrifuge research and development and has taken steps since then to breach the accords’ limits on installing and operating advanced machines. (See ACT, October 2019.)

Breaching the research and development limitations on centrifuges was the third step Iran took to reduce compliance with the JCPOA in response to the U.S. decision to violate the nuclear deal by reimposing sanctions and withdrawing from the accord in May 2018. (See ACT, June 2018.)

Iran may have intended to display the new centrifuge during an April 8 ceremony marking the country’s National Nuclear Technology Day, an annual event during which officials recap accomplishments over the past year and set priorities for the nuclear program. But Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the AEOI, announced that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decided to delay the April 8 ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi delivered a speech on April 8 marking National Nuclear Technology Day and outlining the priorities for the country’s nuclear program in the coming year. Salehi said that Iran would accelerate R&D projects and continue enrichment activities over the next year. He did not provide any details, but Kamalvandi claimed on April 8 that Iran can produce up to 60 advanced centrifuges each day.

Kamalvandi also said that achieving an enrichment capacity of 250,000 separative work units (SWUs) is attainable but that Iran’s goal is one million SWUs.

An SWU is the measure of work required to enrich uranium. Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to enriching uranium with 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, which equates to less than 5,000 SWUs, for 10 years.

It is unclear why Iran would set such a high goal for its enrichment program or what the time frame is for achieving one million SWUs. Iranian officials consistently state that Tehran is willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA if its sanctions relief demands are met.

The terms of the JCPOA limit Iran’s uranium enrichment through 2031, and even after that, it is not clear that Tehran will need to produce one million SWUs to meet its need for enriched uranium fuel.

Iran’s current nuclear power reactor is fueled by Russia, and the JCPOA requires the parties to the deal to ensure Iran can access fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Future nuclear reactors under construction at Bushehr have lifetime fueling contracts with Russia.

Additional priorities that Salehi spelled out in his April 8 address include the continued construction of the two new reactor units at Bushehr and modification of the Arak reactor as required by the 2015 nuclear deal. Modifying the Arak reactor to a design that produces significantly less plutonium is required by the JCPOA.

The U.S. State Department announced on March 30 that it was renewing sanctions waivers allowing certain nuclear cooperation projects outlined in the nuclear deal to continue for another 60 days. The announcement did not specify the projects, but it is likely that the Arak reactor modification project is covered by the waivers, and it noted that the United States “can adjust these restrictions at any time.”

Construction of the two new units at Bushehr, however, is not covered by U.S. sanctions waivers. In May 2019, the State Department announced that activities to expand the Bushehr site “will be exposed to sanctions.” It does not appear that the U.S. announcement has stopped Russian state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom from continuing to work on the new units at Bushehr.

In November 2019, Salehi and Alexander Lokshin, deputy head of Rosatom, participated in a ceremony when concrete was poured for the base of the second reactor unit.


Inspections Continue in Iran Despite Virus

International inspectors will continue to have access to Iran’s nuclear facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, Tehran confirmed in March.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) greets Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi at a Jan. 30 reception. The IAEA and Iran have pledged to maintain the agency's inspection activities in Iran. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)As of mid-April, Iran had confirmed more than 75,000 cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Despite limitations on travel, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said on March 20 that “there are no limitations” for inspectors traveling to Iran and throughout the country monitoring the nuclear program.

The IAEA said in an April 7 press release that “safeguards inspections worldwide are continuing but with some travel disruption.” The release did not specifically mention Iran.

In addition to on-site inspections, the IAEA uses remote monitoring technologies, such as cameras and online enrichment monitors, to track Iran’s nuclear activities.

In a March 23 video, the IAEA noted that it continues to use satellite imagery to implement safeguards and it can continue to monitor stockpiles of nuclear material remotely.

In the video, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that “safeguarding nuclear materials all over the world will not stop for a single minute.”

The IAEA is providing more than 40 countries with kits and resources to test for the coronavirus. Gharibabadi said on April 3 that the IAEA was sending equipment to Iran that will be useful in containing the country’s outbreak.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced it would unveil a new generation of uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Iran Launches Military Satellite

May 2020

Iran launched its first military satellite into orbit using a new space launch vehicle on April 22.

The launch of the Noor-1 satellite was conducted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s (IRGC) space program using a new three-stage Qased launch vehicle. The Qased’s second stage is a solid-fueled missile that the IRGC unveiled in February.

IRGC Aerospace Force Brig. Gen. Amir Hajizadeh said April 24 that the launch was a success and that Iran is receiving signals from the satellite. He said the IRGC intends to launch a second satellite into a higher orbit in the “not-too-distant” future.

Iran has launched satellites into orbit in the past, including a failed attempt Feb. 9, for communications and remote sensing purposes, but this is the first in the military program. (See ACT, March 2020.)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the launch in an April 25 statement and said it proves that Iran’s space program is “neither peaceful nor entirely civilian” as Tehran has claimed. He told reporters that the launch was inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and said Iran needs to be “held accountable for what they have done.”

Resolution 2231 calls upon Iran to refrain from activities relevant to developing ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear capable, but the language is non-binding. Satellite launch vehicles and ballistic missiles do share features, but there are differences in their technical requirements and trajectories.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

Iran Launches Military Satellite

Iran Delays Announcing Nuclear Achievements | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert

Iran Delays Announcing Nuclear Achievements The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced March 27 that it developed a new advanced centrifuge and would unveil the machine in April, but it appears that event may have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The AEOI may have intended to display the new centrifuge during a ceremony marking the country’s National Nuclear Technology Day, an annual event during which officials recap the country’s nuclear accomplishments of the past year. National Nuclear Technology Day was scheduled for April 8, but Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman...


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