Iran Says Biden 'Must Act Quickly,' Refuses to Slow Nuclear Program

Iran has warned that President Joe Biden's administration must act soon to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as regime leaders refuse to scale back nuclear activity unless the U.S. first eases former President Donald Trump's sanctions.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi told USA Today Thursday that Biden "must act quickly" to return to the 2015 nuclear deal "because the window is closing."

But Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Friday that Iran will not scale back its nuclear activities before the U.S. lifts sanctions.

Though both, Tehran and the Biden administration, have said they wish to return to the JCPOA, neither appears willing to take the first step.

Iran says Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the accord means it must be Biden who first lifts sanctions and returns the U.S. to compliance, but the new president and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken are demanding that Iran curbs its nuclear program before any detente.

Biden's demand, Zarif said, is "not practical and will not happen." He added: "If the United States fulfils its obligations, we will fulfil our obligations in full."

But according to the state-run IRNA Zarif said Iran's expanded nuclear program does not necessarily mean the country is pursuing nuclear weapons. He told reporters that a nuclear arsenal would not fit with Iran's strategic or ideological outlooks, IRNA said.

Iran began violating the JCPOA piecemeal when Trump withdrew from the accord. After his administration assassinated Major General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, Tehran said it would no longer abide by any elements of the deal.

Then in November, top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated on a country road near Tehran. Iran blamed Israel, as did unnamed intelligence officials briefing U.S. media.

The Iranian parliament—dominated by conservatives following last year's parliamentary elections—then passed legislation ordering the country's nuclear agency to expand its activities and block international observers from Iranian nuclear sites.

Iran now has far more enriched uranium than was allowed under the JCPOA. Tehran is also enriching its uranium to 20 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent permitted under the deal. From 20 percent, it is a short technical step to reach 90 percent weapons grade uranium.

On Friday, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi said Iran now has some 37 pounds (17 kilograms) of 20 percent enriched uranium. As of November, the country had already stockpiled some 5,385 pounds (2,443 kilograms) of uranium enriched up to 4.5 percent, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report.

The Arms Control Association estimates Iran would need more than 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms) of enriched uranium to make a bomb. All would first need to be enriched to 90 percent weapons grade purity to be used.

Iran nuclear plant in Bushehr JCPOA BIden
File picture dated April 3, 2007 shows an Iranian flag outside the building housing the reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port town of Bushehr. BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty