Nuclear watchdog says Iran is escalating its breaches of 2015 deal

Nuclear watchdog says Iran is escalating its breaches of 2015 deal
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The United Nations's nuclear watchdog agency on Monday accused Iran's government of accelerating the pace at which it violates restrictions put in place under the 2015 nuclear agreement signed among the U.S., Iran, and several European countries.

Tehran has shown increasing willingness to ignore the Obama-era deal after then-President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE pulled the U.S. out of it in 2018.

A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released to member-states and obtained by Reuters found that Iran's Natanz facility has begun operating a third set of IR-2m centrifuges, used in the enrichment of uranium for the country's nuclear power plants.

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Use of the IR-2m centrifuges is not allowed under the 2015 agreement, though the purity of enriched uranium produced by the centrifuges remains far lower than what is required for weapons-grade production, according to Reuters.

“On 7 March 2021, the Agency verified at FEP that: Iran had begun feeding natural UF6 into the third cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges,” reads the IAEA report.

“The fourth cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges was installed but had yet to be fed with natural UF6; installation of a fifth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges was ongoing; and installation of a sixth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges had yet to begin,” it continued.

Iran's government has pressured the Biden administration to return to the 2015 agreement since the president took office in January. The White House has resisted those calls thus far, saying it's up to Tehran to return to compliance while refusing to roll back the sanctions put in place by the Trump administration after it exited the accord.

"We have spoken about the steps that Iran over the past two or so years has taken away from the nuclear deal. Of course, those steps are concerning," State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press briefing on Monday.

"We are not dogmatic about the form these discussions or talks or exchanges of information might take, but ... what we are dogmatic about is that end goal, and that is ... permanent verifiable limits to ensure that Iran can never obtain a nuclear weapon," Price continued.

Early last month, Iran's foreign minister pinned responsibility for the nuclear accord going back on track on the United States.

“It was the United States that left the deal,” Javad Zarif said on CNN's “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” adding: “It was the United States that violated the deal. It was the United States that punished any country that remained respectful and compliant with the deal. So it is for the United States to return to the deal, to implement its obligations.”

-- Updated on March 9 with the State Department spokesperson's comments.