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Protesters burn portraits of President Trump and President-elect Joe Biden in a rally against the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty

Iran plans to begin increasing its nuclear enrichment levels and prohibit international inspectors from accessing nuclear facilities if U.S. oil and banking sanctions are not lifted by this coming February, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: A new law ratified Wednesday orders Iran's atomic energy agency to expand uranium enrichment to match levels prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement. The move comes as a direct response to the assassination of the nation's top nuclear scientist, and appears to put pressure on President-elect Biden to reenter the 2015 deal immediately upon taking office.

The big picture: Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, speaker of Iran’s Parliament and a former commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said: "The criminal enemy will not feel remorse unless we show a fierce reaction," per the Times.

  • In response, lawmakers in the chamber chanted: “Death to Israel” and “death to America."
  • President Hassan Rouhani objected the move, calling it "damaging for diplomacy.” But he will now have to enforce it.

Context: Iran has long said its nuclear program exists for peaceful purposes, but Israeli and American officials believe otherwise.

  • Iran has waited out two years of "maximum pressure" under President Trump, but Rouhani's more patient approach has come under fierce pressure from more hardline voices, particularly after Friday's assassination.

Where things stand: Biden has long said he would return the U.S. to the nuclear deal, which would require lifting sanctions, if Iran returns to compliance.

  • Iran is now increasing the pressure on Biden to make the first move. Iranian officials have also dismissed Biden's ultimate objective of negotiating a more ambitious follow-on agreement.
  • The Biden transition team declined to provide comment to Axios, citing the principle that "there is one president at a time."

The bottom line: “Tehran wants to be at the top of the agenda for the new administration and escalating its nuclear program is a surefire way to do it,” Henry Rome, senior analyst at Eurasia Group, told the Times.

Go deeper: Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 26, 2021 - World

Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

The state of play: Biden also raised arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to a White House readout. The statement said Biden and Putin agreed maintain "consistent communication," and that Biden stressed the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."

Updated 14 mins ago - World

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

The latest: Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters later on Saturday, "I decided to fight back as long as I can."

1 hour ago - Axios on HBO

Preview: "Axios on HBO" interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond

On the next episode of "Axios on HBO," Axios co-founder Mike Allen interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 28 at 6 pm. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.