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Construction work at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on November 10, 2019.
Construction work at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on November 10, 2019. (Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

U.S. intelligence officials believe Iran is seeking help from Russia to support its nuclear program, while Tehran is seeking a backup plan in case a lasting nuclear deal with world powers is reached.

Intelligence indicates that Iran has been asking Russia for help in obtaining more nuclear material and making nuclear fuel, the people said. The fuel could help Iran power its nuclear reactors and has the potential to further shorten the so-called “breakthrough time” for Iran to build nuclear weapons.

However, experts stressed to CNN that proliferation risks vary depending on which reactor the fuel is used for. And it’s unclear whether Russia will agree to help — the Kremlin has long opposed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

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But Iran’s proposal comes amid an expanding partnership between Iran and Russia, which has shipped drones and other equipment to Russia in recent months to use in the war in Ukraine, and Moscow is likely to argue over how a crackdown will sweep through Iran’s protest movement advises Tehran. , U.S. officials said.

Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and has officially halted its weapons program, but U.S. officials say Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are well beyond the scope of the 2015 nuclear deal and that it takes time for Iran to produce enough to manufacture The time to fissile material for nuclear weapons has been reduced to a few months.

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In June, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned lawmakers that Iran’s nuclear “program is moving fast… The longer this goes on, the shorter the breakthrough… According to public reports , it has now dropped to a few months at best. If this continues, it will be shortened to a few weeks.”

The Biden administration is eyeing any new areas of cooperation between Iran and Russia. Given that Russia is a member of the P5+1 countries involved in blocking negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, any covert Russian aid to Iran that could push Iran to produce nuclear weapons would also mark a major shift in Russian policy.

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“As we said, the JCPOA is not on the agenda,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adriana Watson told CNN, referring to the Iran nuclear deal’s official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We have been working with our partners to expose the growing relationship between Iran and Russia — and hold them accountable. We will firmly oppose any cooperation that runs counter to our nonproliferation goals.”

The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the Russian foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

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

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