The Threat of Escalation in the Nuclear File with Tehran – The Arab Wall
The Threat of Escalation in the Nuclear File with Tehran

The Threat of Escalation in the Nuclear File with Tehran

The notable escalation in America’s approach to the Iranian nuclear issue can be understood through several factors. Among these, notable considerations include Iran’s exploitation of the Israeli conflict in Gaza to advance its nuclear agenda, decreased Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the growing influence of hardline conservative factions within the Iranian parliament, and internal political pressures faced by the American administration due to its Iran policy.
Following a period of détente between the United States and Iran concerning the nuclear agreement, a shift was observed as the former began exerting stronger pressure on the latter. On March 7th of this month, the US issued a threat to pursue a new resolution against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency unless it cooperated more substantially. This included addressing inquiries about the discovery of uranium particles at the Natanz and Fordow facilities, subsequent to the closure of the Marivan facility’s file.
In essence, the Biden administration is presently pursuing a tactical shift in its approach to the nuclear file. Previously, it had overlooked Iran’s ongoing violations of the agreement, opting instead to reduce its commitments to it. This was done while prioritizing other matters, such as the impending US presidential elections scheduled for November 5th, and the ongoing conflict involving Israel in Gaza. In this scenario, Washington aims to prevent the escalation of the conflict by refraining from involving Iran directly. Additionally, it has instructed its allies to manage their confrontations with Israel within the broader context of the situation.

Multiple Motivations
This new American approach can be interpreted in light of several motivations, the most prominent of which are:
1- Iran exploited the ongoing war in Gaza, which commenced on October 7th last year, to significantly advance its nuclear program. According to a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on February 26th, Iran’s uranium production surged to 5525.5 kilograms across various enrichment levels, exceeding the nuclear agreement’s limit by 27-fold (202.8 kilograms). Notably, around 121.5 kilograms of uranium were enriched to 60%, while approximately 712.2 kilograms were enriched to 20%. This indicates Iran’s persistence in exploiting the perceived “loopholes” in the nuclear agreement. These loopholes have facilitated the enhancement of its nuclear activities while also reaping certain benefits from the agreement, such as the lifting of the UN embargo on activities related to its ballistic missile program on October 18th, 2023.

2- Tehran intentionally scaled back its cooperation with the Atomic Agency, coinciding with an uptick in Iranian nuclear activities and a growing reluctance to maintain previous levels of collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Statements from Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, on February 11th suggested that, given its current capabilities, Iran could potentially produce nuclear bombs without a political decision to do so. This raised concerns for IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi, who sought to discuss cooperation between senior officials of both parties during a visit to Tehran in March. However, Tehran rejected this proposal and instead suggested Grossi visit in May to attend Iran’s inaugural Nuclear Energy Conference.
Prior to this, Iran took deliberate escalatory actions against eight inspectors from the IAEA, who were German and French nationals, on September 27th, 2023. Iran revoked their permits in response to criticisms from Germany, France, Britain, and the United States within the IAEA regarding Iranian actions.

3- The growing apprehension surrounding the new composition of the Iranian parliament has become evident, particularly among European nations. The results of the elections held on March 1st have sparked concerns, given the emergence of more hardline policies embraced by several prominent deputies. Mahmoud Nabavian, who secured the top position in Tehran, exemplifies this trend. Nabavian staunchly opposes nuclear negotiations and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), viewing further compliance with the agency’s demands as detrimental to Iran’s nuclear program “achievements.” This perspective resonates with the regime’s narrative, which consistently suggests that certain agency inspectors maintain close ties with American and Israeli intelligence agencies, potentially leaking information gathered during inspections to them.
Perhaps this more hardline faction within the council aims to apply increased pressure to further advance the development of the nuclear program and continue scaling back Iran’s commitments in the nuclear agreement. This strategy may align with Iran’s objectives irrespective of the outcome of the US presidential elections. If President Joe Biden secures another term, Iran would have bolstered its negotiating position by advancing its nuclear program. Consequently, it could enter into new negotiations with the US administration from a position of greater strength, enabling it to secure specific privileges while offering fewer potential concessions.
If former President Donald Trump were to win, Iran would possess a significant bargaining chip against his anticipated hardline policies. With this leverage, Iran aims to compel Washington to reconsider its stance on certain issues of particular importance to Iran.

4- The Biden administration is facing internal political pressures, and it seems that the recent escalation in the Iranian nuclear issue is partly aimed at addressing these pressures, particularly in light of the upcoming presidential elections on November 5th. Former President Donald Trump has been placing significant emphasis on foreign policy matters, notably criticizing President Joe Biden’s handling of the Iranian situation. Trump contends that the current administration’s approach has failed to effectively contain Iran’s regional influence and its nuclear ambitions.
There are growing indications within Washington that Iran’s boldness in advancing its nuclear program stems from its confidence in the limited options available to the current administration, especially as the United States enters an election year.

Interconnected Issues
Despite the notable escalation in the American stance toward the Iranian nuclear issue, it appears unlikely that the United States will take a significant step, such as calling for the transfer of the Iranian nuclear dossier from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Security Council. Such a move would disrupt the calculations of the US administration, both in terms of election preparations and concerns about potential repercussions on the gradually intensifying conflict in the Middle East.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that such an action would compel Iran to change its policy regarding Western pressures and demands. Instead, Iran may adopt even more hardline positions, which could extend beyond its nuclear program to its interventions in regional crises.