Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi revealed this week that Iran had tested a new generation of advanced centrifuges that analysts believe would dramatically improve the Islamic republic’s ability to go nuclear at will, a development that Reuters suggested might “annoy Western states” committed to rolling back Tehran’s atomic program.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointedly asked the State Department on Friday why Iran’s testing of the so-called IR-8 centrifuges was not a straightforward violation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA):
— Mark Dubowitz (@dubo1968) August 29, 2014
The agreement calls on Iran to freeze progress on its nuclear program in exchange for a series of functionally irreversible financial windfalls from the West, and the Obama administration has been unequivocal that any cheating would trigger a snapback in the estimated tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
Friday also saw the publication of a new report [PDF] from the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) identifying Iran’s centrifuge research and development (R&D) program as a central threat to the verifiability of any nuclear deal with the Islamic republic:
Negotiations on a comprehensive solution should seek to place further limitations on this program and establish effective and expanded monitoring practices as part of an agreement on a mutually defined enrichment program with agreed parameters. Throughout the duration of a long-term comprehensive agreement, Iran’s centrifuge R&D program should be limited to centrifuges with capabilities comparable to the current IR-2m centrifuge.
The report pointed out that next-generation centrifuges would not have any industrial purpose – Iran is decades away from being able to compete with uranium exporters such as Russia – but that they would create a scenario under which Tehran “would need far fewer of these advanced centrifuges in a clandestine plant to make weapon-grade uranium” should it decide to sneak across the nuclear finish line.
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