February 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran on Alarming Trajectory Toward Nuclear Weapons, IAEA Warns

February 28, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran on Alarming Trajectory Toward Nuclear Weapons, IAEA Warns

Latest Developments

The UN’s nuclear watchdog reported on February 26 that Iran remains on an alarming trajectory toward nuclear weapons. In quarterly reports viewed by FDD, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that there was “no new progress in resolving outstanding issues in this reporting period,” stemming from Tehran’s failure to explain past and possibly ongoing nuclear weapons work at several sites.

In addition, the reports indicate that the regime has continued to stockpile enriched uranium and expanded its ability to quickly sprint to nuclear weapons while continuing to inhibit IAEA monitoring. Washington and its European allies have an opportunity to censure Iran’s nuclear advances and its failure to cooperate with the IAEA at next week’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. The allies can also impose a deadline for compliance.

Expert Analysis

“Washington must support the IAEA director general and push for a censure resolution calling on Iran to end its nuclear activities and cooperate with the agency. If the United States remains silent, Tehran will move one step closer to a nuclear weapon.” — Anthony Ruggiero, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“The Biden administration has a clear choice: continue the current, failed path of withholding pressure against Iran’s nuclear advances and allow it to cross the nuclear threshold at a time of its choosing, or restore an effort to deter, penalize, and reverse Tehran’s actions. If Washington opts for business as usual, the next year will be a very dangerous time for Iran, which is contemplating a breakout to atomic weapons.” — Andrea Stricker, FDD Research Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“We need to deal with the IAEA’s facts, not Tehran’s fiction. Iran’s nuclear threat is growing, not receding. Iran could potentially produce more nuclear weapons, not fewer. Pulling back political pressure in Vienna and providing sanctions relief in Washington have proven to be a failed strategy.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Iranian Advances and Non-Cooperation

Since the IAEA’s last reporting in November, Iran reduced the timeline it needs to make nuclear weapons. According to the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran can now produce weapons-grade uranium for seven nuclear weapons during the first month of a breakout, an increase of one additional weapon since November. Tehran reduced this timeline by installing 1,000 new advanced centrifuges, which add to its ability to quickly produce nuclear material, and by increasing its overall stockpile of enriched uranium. While Iran diluted some of its 60 percent highly enriched uranium by converting it to 20 percent, this was not a de-escalatory move, since 20 percent enriched uranium entails some 90 percent of the effort required to make weapons-grade uranium. Iran could still easily convert its enriched uranium stockpile for nuclear weapons at a time of its choosing.

The IAEA also reports that Tehran has provided no new cooperation with a nearly six-year investigation into Iran’s secret nuclear weapons work. The IAEA reports that until Tehran cooperates, it is not in a position “to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear [program] is exclusively peaceful.”

Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: Previewing the March 4-8 IAEA Board Meeting,” FDD Event

Exploiting America’s Declining Pressure: Iran’s Nuclear Escalation Over Time,” FDD Visual

Iran’s Nuclear Concession May Not Be One at All,” by Andrea Stricker


Biodefense International Organizations Iran Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation