By MATTHEW LEE
AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. intelligence assessment says Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons at the moment but has ramped up activities that could help it develop them.
The assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released Monday says Iran has moved to increase its capacity to produce an atomic bomb since 2020 but has stopped short of that so far.
The findings corresponded with previous U.S. assessments about Iran’s nuclear program, although many in Congress and elsewhere have been skeptical of those.
The Biden administration has been defending its desire to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, since it first took office. That effort has been complicated in recent months by the suspension of its chief negotiator, Rob Malley, who was placed on unpaid leave last month pending an investigation into claims he mishandled classified information.
“Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that would be necessary to produce a testable nuclear device,” according to the two-page unclassified synopsis of the report.
However, Iran is also pursuing “research and development activities that would bring it closer to producing the fissile material needed for completing a nuclear device following a decision to do so,” the report said.
In that regard, Iran continues to violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal regarding uranium enrichment that it agreed to with world powers, the report said. The Trump administration withdrew from that agreement in 2018.
“Iran continues to increase the size and enrichment level of its uranium stockpile beyond JCPOA limits,” the report said, adding that it also continues to exceed JCPOA restrictions on advanced centrifuge research and development.
These findings have been generally supported by inspections from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In addition to the nuclear findings, the U.S. intelligence report said that Iranian ballistic missile programs continue to pose a significant threat to countries around the Middle East. “Iran has emphasized improving the accuracy, lethality, and reliability of its missiles,” it said.