On May 9, the U.S. Navy announced that the cruiser USS Monterey had confiscated weapons from a stateless dhow in the Arabian Sea, which appeared to be transporting the cargo to Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The arms hidden below the vessel's deck included almost 3,000 Chinese-made assault rifles, hundreds of machine guns and sniper rifles, hundreds of optical sights and rocket-propelled grenades, and dozens of Russian-manufactured anti-tank guided missiles. A U.S. defense official said that interviews with the dhow's crew and an inspection of the weapons indicated that the ship had originated in Iran. An arms embargo imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2015 prohibits the provision of weapons to the Houthis.
May 9, 2021
-- Associated Press
April 22, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on April 21 that Iran was using just one cascade of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium to 60 percent purity at the aboveground portion of the Natanz nuclear facility, instead of the two it had been using previously. A single cascade of IR-6 centrifuges continued to enrich uranium to 60 percent while the other cascade, comprised of IR-4 centrifuges, now enriched the depleted uranium from the IR-6 centrifuges to 20 percent. The IAEA did not clarify the reason for the shift, nor did it specify the number of centrifuges in each cascade. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement placing limits on Iran's nuclear program, obliges the country to enrich uranium to no more than 3.67 percent purity.
April 21, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on April 21 that Iran had installed six cascades of "up to" 1,044 IR-2m centrifuges and two cascades of "up to" 348 IR-4 centrifuges at the underground portion of the Natanz nuclear site. The IAEA did not specify how many of the newly installed centrifuges Iran was using to enrich uranium. Iran also informed the IAEA that it plans to install four additional cascades of IR-4 centrifuges in the underground facility, where an explosion and power outage earlier in the month damaged an unknown number of centrifuges. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement restricting Iran's nuclear program, limits the country to the use of less efficient IR-1 centrifuges at the underground portion of Natanz.
April 16, 2021
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, speaker of the Iranian Parliament, announced on April 16 that Iran had begun enriching uranium gas to 60 percent purity. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), specified that Iranian centrifuges were producing nine grams of uranium enriched to 60 percent per hour but that this amount would decrease to five grams per hour in the near future. Earlier in the week, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the Natanz nuclear facility and said that Iran’s planned 60-percent enrichment would take place at the aboveground portion of the site. Iranian officials and state media cast the move to 60-percent enrichment as a response to the previous week’s sabotage at Natanz, which damaged centrifuges there. Before then, Iran had been enriching uranium to 20 percent. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement placing limits on Iran’s nuclear program, prohibits Iran from enriching uranium to more than 3.67 percent. The European Union, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom expressed concern at the Iranian decision.
-- Associated Press
April 11, 2021
Iran's Natanz nuclear facility suffered a power outage that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), described as "nuclear terrorism" on April 11. Unnamed Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials said that an Israeli-orchestrated explosion had destroyed an internal power system feeding electricity to underground centrifuges at Natanz. The officials said that Iran could need at least nine months to return Natanz's enriched uranium production to previous levels. Behrouz Kamalvandi, an AEOI spokesman, reported that the entire complex had lost power but claimed that there were no casualties or damage. Israel neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the action.
-- The New York Times
April 10, 2021
Iran exhibited 133 of its nuclear achievements on April 10 as part of National Nuclear Technology Day. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the Natanz nuclear facility to begin using 164 Iranian-made IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium; IR-6 centrifuges, the most efficient that Iran has currently put into use, have a claimed output of 10 separative work units (SWUs), enabling them to enrich 10 times as much uranium hexafluoride as first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. Additionally, Rouhani ordered Iran to begin tests of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s (an improved variant of the IR-6) centrifuges. Rouhani also oversaw the launch of the second phase of industrial production of deuterium compounds at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility. Separately, the Natanz facility launched a new unit for assembling and evaluating centrifuges and the National Centre for Laser Science and Technology in Iran's Alborz province unveiled unspecified nuclear projects.
April 9, 2021
On April 9, the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 international agreement that imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, finished the first week of meetings in Vienna on how to return Iran and the United States to compliance with the deal. Representatives from Iran and the United States did not meet face to face, instead relying on diplomats from the European Union, which chairs the JCPOA Joint Commission, and the other JCPOA signatories—China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—as go-betweens. The discussions were carried out in two working groups, one addressing how to lift nuclear-related U.S. sanctions on Iran and the other focusing on bringing Iran's uranium-enrichment activities back within the parameters of the JCPOA. Iran, Russia, and the European Union expressed satisfaction with the progress of the talks, and all sides agreed to meet again the following Wednesday. A spokesman for the U.S. State Department stated the United States' willingness to lift sanctions that are "inconsistent" with the JCPOA, a definition that may exclude sanctions imposed under human rights and terrorism authorities, such as those on the Central Bank of Iran.
-- The New York Times
April 6, 2021
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said on April 6 that the AEOI had begun mechanical tests of its new-generation IR-9 centrifuge. Kamalvandi described the IR-9's output as 50 separative work units (SWUs); its predecessor, the IR-8, has an output of 24 SWUs. Kamalvandi also claimed that the IR-9 was developed entirely in Iran.
-- Mehr News Agency
April 3, 2021
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), announced on April 3 that Iran had produced 50 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent. A law passed by Iran's parliament requires the AEOI to amass a total of 120 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level. Iran's mission to the United Nations said on March 29 that the country will only halt enrichment of uranium to 20 percent when the United States lifts economic sanctions.
-- Fars News Agency
April 1, 2021
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on March 31 that Iran began using a fourth cascade of 174 second-generation IR-2m centrifuges to enrich uranium at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), the underground portion of the Natanz nuclear facility. Iran has also installed an additional two cascades of IR-2m centrifuges but has yet to begin operating them; Iran has informed the IAEA that it plans to eventually use the total of six cascades to enrich uranium to 5 percent purity. The IAEA also noted that Iran had yet to start installing an intended second cascade of IR-4 centrifuges. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement limiting Iran's nuclear program that Iran has been in breach of since 2019, restricts the country to the use of less efficient IR-1 centrifuges at the FEP. According to the IAEA, Iran is now using 30 cascades of 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges, four cascades of 696 IR-2m centrifuges, and one cascade of 174 IR-4 centrifuges to enrich uranium at the FEP.