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President Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

A UN atomic watchdog said Tuesday that Iran continues to bolster its stockpile of highly enriched uranium despite exceeding the cap set under a 2015 accord meant to restrict the government's nuclear arsenal, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The U.S. pulled out of the deal in 2018 under then-President Trump. The Iranian government has countered by violating the limits placed on its nuclear program.

Context: Tehran is only allowed to retain 202.8 kilograms of uranium under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which relaxed economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for adherence to restrictions on its nuclear program. The deal was meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Driving the news: Iran has roughly 2,441.3 kilograms in its total stock of uranium as of Aug. 30, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential quarterly report to member states on Tuesday, per AP. The number was higher at 3,241 kilograms on May 22.

  • The IAEA estimates that Tehran's stock of uranium has been enriched to up to 60% fissile purity at 10 kilograms, marking an increase of 7.6 kilograms since May.
  • Iran's arsenal of uranium enriched to up to 20% fissile purity is now an estimate of 84.3 kilograms, an increase of 62.8 kilograms from three months prior.

What they're saying: The agency's efforts have been "seriously undermined" since February after the Iranian government refused to give inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment, IAEA said.

  • IAEA's confidence in properly assessing nuclear activities will continue to fall "unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran."
    • A temporary deal allowing the IAEA to monitor some Iranian nuclear sites was originally set to expire in May. Iran and the IAEA agreed to a temporary extension that expired on June 24.
  • IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossis has said he is willing to travel to Iran to discuss the matter with the country's newly elected government, according to AP.

The big picture: The U.S. had hoped to reach an agreement on returning to the 2015 accord before hardliner Ebrahim Raisi took office as Iranian president last month. But six rounds of talks failed to produce tangible results and led Iranians to suspend negotiations.

  • Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord since the U.S.'s departure.
  • President Biden has signaled an openness to rejoining the deal.

Go deeper: New Iranian foreign minister hints at nuclear deal approach

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Iraq elections boost nationalist al-Sadr at expense of pro-Iran bloc

Al-Sadr supporters celebrate in Baghdad. Photo: Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Abu Dhabi — Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged from Sunday's parliamentary elections as the leading figure in Iraqi politics.

Why it matters: Al-Sadr has positioned himself as a bulwark against foreign interference in Iraq. He has a history of violent opposition to U.S. forces in the country but has more recently proved adept at presenting himself to regional and international partners as a more palatable alternative to pro-Iranian rivals.

Mike Allen, author of AM
40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Ina Fried, author of Login
50 mins ago - Technology

Intel CEO blames predecessors for manufacturing woes

Axios on HBO

When it comes to Intel's recent manufacturing problems, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger places the blame squarely on his predecessors — many of whom he notes were not engineers deeply steeped in chip technology, as he is.

Why it matters: Gelsinger has announced a broad plan to reinvigorate Intel by doubling down on manufacturing. However, the strategy depends on the venerable semiconductor giant recovering from recent stumbles.