National flags of Iran line a section of the Hashemi Rafsanjani highway as a construction crane stands beyond in Tehran, Iran (Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg)  

Iran Sticks to Nuclear Limit Even as U.S. Oil Sanctions Bite

(Bloomberg) -- Iran continued abiding by nuclear limits in its landmark accord with world powers even after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement, according to international monitors.

In its first report since the U.S. re-imposed oil and banking sanctions on Nov. 5, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran is still allowing intrusive inspections while keeping its nuclear capacity and material below thresholds allowed under the July 2015 deal, according to a 5-page restricted report published Monday and seen by Bloomberg News.

The IAEA conducted snap inspections “to all sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit,” according to the quarterly report. “The agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing.”

Iran Sticks to Nuclear Limit Even as U.S. Oil Sanctions Bite

While the U.S. decision to drop out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Tehran and world powers has started to bite Iran’s economy, the other nations that joined the accord -- France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China -- all have vowed to stand by it.

Countries including China, India and South Korea won waivers from the U.S. to continue importing Iranian oil, although the State Department maintains they must continue reducing volumes. The European Union is trying to develop a “special purpose vehicle” to keep financial transactions flowing. A reactor upgrade promised under the nuclear deal is also continuing with U.S. acquiescence.

“The U.S. has left just enough breathing room to continue implementing the JCPOA from a technical level,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said by phone on Monday. “What we will see for at least the next couple months is continued compliance as Iran assess the new cost-benefit analysis of staying in the deal.”

Iran Sticks to Nuclear Limit Even as U.S. Oil Sanctions Bite

While U.S. officials have grudgingly conceded Iran continues to meet its nuclear obligations under the accord -- which capped the capacity and production of material that could be used in weapons in return for sanctions relief -- they accuse Tehran’s government of continuing its ballistic missile program and of meddling in Middle Eastern conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

The IAEA Report Also Says:

  • Iran has operated no more than 5,060 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment plant
  • Uranium hasn’t exceeded the 3.7 percent limit on enrichment purity. Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched.
  • The low-enriched uranium stockpile hasn’t exceeded 300 kilograms (662 pounds).
  • IAEA inspectors have installed automated, real-time enrichment monitoring in Iran that records, measures and stores changes in activity.
  • The IAEA’s board of governors will convene on Nov. 22 in Vienna to deliberate the latest findings.

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