- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2019

Iran may be breaking a key portion of an Obama-era deal to limit its nuclear program, a United Nations watchdog said Friday in a major new report that comes as military tensions between Washington and Tehran escalate.

In the report, obtained by The Associated Press and other media outlets, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium is below the levels laid out in the 2015 agreement. But the study also said that Tehran is operating as many as 33 advanced IR-6 centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium.

The deal allows Iran to operate as many as 30 such centrifuges, but that threshold doesn’t kick in until about eight years into the agreement. The exact level they’re allowed to use right now is something of a “gray area,” foreign officials told Reuters, though the report seems to suggest Iran is pushing the limits of the agreement to the breaking point.

“Technical discussions in relation to the IR-6 centrifuges are ongoing,” a portion of the report reads.

U.S. lawmakers immediately seized on the news and claimed it as further evidence that Iran cannot be trusted.

“Today’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms what I have long said: Iran is cheating on the catastrophic Obama Iran nuclear deal,” Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said in a statement. “In addition to secretly storing blueprints for nuclear weapons and refusing to turn over materials related to their nuclear weapons program, now they have pushed the envelope so far on centrifuges that the cheating can no longer be denied.”

President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the multinational deal last year, though the rest of the signatories — the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China — continue to abide by it. After withdrawing, the Trump administration has reinstated a host of harsh economic sanctions on Iran, which have crippled its economy.

Earlier this month, Iranian officials gave the U.S. and its allies 60 days to rework the agreement. If that deadline is not met, Tehran said it will begin disregarding major provisions of the deal and could ramp up its uranium enrichment.

The report comes just days after Mr. Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 1,500 U.S. troops to the region. Earlier this month, the White House sent an aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the Middle East in a show of force meant to counter Iranian aggression.

Those moves came in direct response to apparent Iranian threats directed at American troops stationed in Iraq.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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