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President of Iran Hassan Rouhani during a press conference on Jan. 2. Photo: Presidency of Iran/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran announced Saturday its atomic energy agency will begin enriching uranium up to 20% at its underground Fordow nuclear facility — a level of enrichment exceeding regulations set by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, AP reports.

Why it matters: The resumption of enriching uranium to pre-nuclear deal levels would bring the country's nuclear program closer to being capable of producing the levels of enrichment needed for nuclear weapons.

What they're saying: The International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged in a statement that Iran has told its inspectors of the decision to resume high-level enrichment, according to AP.

  • The IAEA said Iran did not disclose when it planned to boost enrichment, though the agency added that it “has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordo.”

Context: Iran is currently enriching uranium to levels above the limit set by the nuclear deal, and experts believe the country has enough low-enriched uranium for at least two nuclear weapons if it decides to produce them, according to AP.

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

The big picture: The announcement comes a day before the anniversary of the U.S. killing of top Iranian military commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani in 2020 and weeks after the assassination of the nation's top nuclear scientist.

  • The move could set off the return of brinkmanship between Iran and Israel, which considered striking the Fordow facility before the nuclear deal if Iran did not stop enriching to 20%.
  • Iran's parliament ratified a law in early December that ordered its atomic energy agency to expand uranium enrichment to match levels prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement and to expel IAEA nuclear inspectors, though the inspectors so far remain in the country.

Go deeper: U.S. flies B-52 bombers over Persian Gulf as show of force against Iran

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Doomsday Clock stays at 100 seconds to midnight

Robert Rosner, left, and Suzet McKinney reveal the 2021 setting of the Doomsday Clock. Photo: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Thomas Gaulkin

In its annual update on Wednesday morning, scientists announced the Doomsday Clock would be kept at 100 seconds to midnight.

Why it matters: The decision to keep the clock hands steady — tied for the closest it has ever been to midnight in the clock's 74-year history — reflects a picture of progress on climate change and politics undercut by growing threats from infectious disease and disruptive technologies.

40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

CBC members nix border visit

A Haitian migrant carries a toddler on his shoulders today as he crosses the Rio Grande River. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week to investigate the conditions faced by Haitian migrants and protest allegations of inhumane treatment by U.S. agents.

Why it matters: It's a thorny proposition both in terms of timing and messaging. Going assures a new wave of negative headlines for President Biden amid sinking popularity. And with congressional deadlines in the coming days over infrastructure, a possible government shutdown and debt-limit crisis, Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the House.