Pompeo calls for more pressure on Iran, fears nuclear breakout – The Washington Post

In a statement late Wednesday, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said that her credentials were revoked and that the IAEA was informed of the incident. Iran did not immediately provide further details about the inspector, including her nationality. An IAEA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

In remarks Thursday in Vienna, Tehran’s envoy to the IAEA said the inspector, who arrived with a team, had initially tested positive for explosive nitrates. The other members were cleared to enter.

“We repeated the [security] process with different detectors and also her suitcase, and the alarms went off every time,” Kazem Gharbabadi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said in an interview Thursday with Iranian state television.

“Considering the history of sabotage against our nuclear facilities, we are not going to tolerate risking our national security,” he said. “We have asked the agency to replace this inspector with someone else.”

The United States and Iran have been facing off over Tehran’s nuclear program, after President Trump withdrew from a 2015 agreement that curbed Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The Trump administration reimposed a harsh embargo on the Iranian economy last year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accused Iran of accelerating its efforts to produce enough fissile material for an atomic weapon, an alleged move he described as “extortion.”

Iran has deliberately breached several of the accord’s restrictions, including caps on the size and purity of its enriched-uranium stockpile, in a bid to compel the deal’s other signatories to offset the effects of U.S. sanctions.

“Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout,” Pompeo said in a statement, referring to the time it would take for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single bomb.

According to the IAEA, however, Iran continues to enrich uranium at levels far below the 90 percent threshold required for a nuclear weapon.

Iran this week began injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the Fordow enrichment facility near the city of Qom. Under the nuclear deal’s provisions, enrichment activities are banned at the site.

Iran’s atomic energy commission said the Fordow facility would be enriching uranium only up to 4.5 percent by Saturday, a level sufficient for fuel to power energy-producing nuclear reactors but well below weapons grade.

In Brussels, European Union officials involved in negotiating the nuclear pact said they were cautious about doing anything to torpedo the agreement.

“There is actually a broad consensus in defending the JCPOA and in promoting the JCPOA,” a senior E.U. official said Thursday, referring to the pact, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions about Iran.

“What has become evident in the latest period is that it has become more difficult to support and promote the JCPOA,” he said.

E.U. leaders have been torn about whether to trigger a dispute mechanism within the accord that could theoretically put pressure on Iran to come back into full compliance with the deal, since that could also inspire Iran to walk away completely. Doing nothing also risks their credibility, though, and gives Iran a pass as it steps up its defiance.

One of the biggest advocates for the United States to pull out of the deal was Israel, which maintained that the agreement took the pressure off the Iranian economy even as it was still preparing for an eventual push to create nuclear weapons.

“This is precisely why we opposed the deal; it did not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” said Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador in Washington. He asserted that even under the deal, Iran was still preparing to develop weapons. Iran has vowed never to build or acquire nuclear weapons, a commitment that is enshrined in the first paragraph of the nuclear agreement.

Oren also said that Iran’s conventional influence throughout the region has been expanding, which he said directly threatens Israel and has been funded by the oil revenue that flowed during the deal.

Birnbaum reported from Brussels. Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem contributed to this report.