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Construction work at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Iran, on November 10, 2019.
Construction work at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Iran, on November 10, 2019. (Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Iran is seeking Russia’s help to bolster its nuclear program, US intelligence officials say, while Tehran is looking for a backup plan if a lasting nuclear deal with world powers fails to materialize.

The intelligence suggests that Iran has asked Russia for help in acquiring additional nuclear materials and in the production of nuclear fuel, sources familiar with the matter said. The fuel can help Iran run its nuclear reactors and could potentially further shorten Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to create a nuclear weapon.

However, experts stressed to CNN that the risk of nuclear proliferation varies depending on which reactor the fuel is used for. And it is also not clear whether Russia has agreed to help – the Kremlin has long been outwardly opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

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But the Iranian proposal comes amid an expanding partnership between Iran and Russia, which in recent months has included Iran sending drones and other equipment to Russia for use in the country’s war in Ukraine, and Moscow could potentially advise Tehran on how to suppress a protest movement sweeping Iran. , US officials said.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it formally halted its weapons program, but U.S. officials have said Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have gone far beyond the parameters of the 2015 nuclear deal and that the time it would take. for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon has been shortened to just months.

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In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned lawmakers that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping forward … The longer it goes on, the more the breakout time decreases … it is now down to a few months at best, according to public reports. And if this continues, it will come down to a matter of weeks.”

The Biden administration views with concern any new areas of cooperation between Iran and Russia. Any covert Russian aid to Iran that could fuel Iranian efforts to produce a nuclear weapon would also mark a significant shift in Russian policy, given Russia’s membership of the P5+1 group of countries that have been part of negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

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“As we’ve said, the JCPOA is not on the agenda,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told CNN, referring to the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We have been working with partners to expose the growing ties between Iran and Russia – and hold them accountable. We will be firm in addressing any cooperation that would run counter to our non-proliferation goals.”

The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the Russian Foreign Ministry did not return requests for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this story has been updated to clarify the description of Iran’s nuclear program.

Read the full story here.

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