Regular updates from the International Atomic Energy Agency have suggested that Iran was delaying the process of developing the installation necessary for the conversion of low-enriched uranium from a gaseous to a powdered oxide form. The need for the facility was established in November but it was not actually commissioned until May. If the latest reports re confirmed, it means that that facility did not begin operating until the last week of the interim period. In addition, it is not clear that the activation of the site means that Iran will actually complete the conversion that was required of it by the end of that period.

With that facility either non-existent or non-operational while Iranian enrichment centrifuges continued running, the nation’s stockpile of gaseous enriched uranium has actually increased by approximately one metric ton since February. Nuclear experts say that Iran can convert a relatively large amount of the material into oxide form in a short period of time. But the short timeline may be a final test of their commitment to doing so.

Diplomats involved in negotiations, particularly from the United States, will have to consider whether these late moves have been made in good faith or just in an attempt to feign cooperation. But even if the 11th hour activation of the conversion facility has been carried out solely for the purpose of securing an extension to the talks, there is a good chance that it will work, since the United States is likely to be very cautious about walking away from talks. That is, it does not wish to give the impression that it sabotaged potential progress that was signified by Iranian activities, however modest or late in coming they were.