according to senior diplomats who were involved. Two working groups were formed to discuss sanctions and uranium enrichment, both tasked with mapping out a plan to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Steven Erlanger and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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China Poses Biggest Threat to U.S., Intelligence Report Says

This year’s report offers a far more robust discussion of the national security implications of climate change, whose threats, for the most part, are long term, but can also have short-term consequences, the report said.

“This year, we will see increasing potential for surges in migration by Central American populations, which are reeling from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather, including multiple hurricanes in 2020 and several years of recurring droughts and storms,” the report said.

It adds that the economic and political implications of the coronavirus would reverberate for years, predicting that the economic damage would worsen instability in a few countries, though it does not name them.

Combined with extreme weather caused by climate change, the report says the number of people worldwide experiencing acute hunger will rise to 330 million this year from 135 million. The report says that the pandemic has disrupted other health services, including polio vaccinations and H.I.V. treatments in Africa.

Typically, the director of national intelligence delivers the threat assessment to Congress and releases a written report alongside it. But no declassified assessment was issued last year, as the Trump administration’s intelligence agencies sought to avoid angering the White House.

In 2019, Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, delivered an analysis of threats from Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that was at odds with President Donald J. Trump’s views. The testimony prompted Mr. Trump to lash out on Twitter, admonishing his intelligence chiefs to “go back to school.”

Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence; William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director; and other top intelligence officials will testify about the report on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Iran Vows to Increase Uranium Enrichment After Attack on Nuclear Site

Iran said Tuesday that it would begin enriching uranium to a level of 60 percent purity, three times the current level and much closer to that needed to make a bomb, though American officials doubt the country has the ability to produce a weapon in the near future.

Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, did not give a reason for the shift, but it appeared to be retaliation for an Israeli attack on Iran’s primary nuclear fuel production plant as well as a move to strengthen Iran’s hand in nuclear talks in Vienna.

Mr. Araghchi said that Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its decision in a letter on Tuesday.

Iran also attacked an Israeli-owned cargo ship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, officials said, the latest clash in its maritime shadow war with Israel. The attack was another sign of increased tensions in the region but was reported to have caused little to no damage.

threat assessment report released on Tuesday.

The report said, however, that “if Tehran does not receive sanctions relief” — as Iran has demanded — “Iranian officials probably will consider options ranging from further enriching uranium up to 60 percent to designing and building a new” nuclear reactor that could, over the long term, produce bomb-grade material. That would take years.

The assessment would seem to give President Biden some breathing room as he enters negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring some form of the nuclear agreement.

the attack on Sunday at the nuclear fuel-production center at Natanz, where an explosion knocked the facility offline. He said that Iran would install an additional 1,000 centrifuges there to increase the plant’s capacity by 50 percent.

An Iranian official also provided a new estimate of the damage caused by the attack, saying that several thousand centrifuges were “completely destroyed.” That level of destruction takes out a large portion of Iran’s ability to enrich uranium.

But the full extent of the damage is unknown, and Iran presumably is vulnerable to continued attacks on its nuclear infrastructure. Until the electric power systems are rebuilt at Natanz, it would be impossible to make new centrifuges spin.

Iran is expected to replace the first-generation centrifuges damaged in the Israeli attack with more advanced, more efficient models.

uses about 1,000 centrifuges.

To raise the level to 60 percent purity, Iran would have to turn over roughly half of those machines onto the new enrichment job. Purifying it to 90 percent would require another hundred or so machines.

apparent mine attack by Israel on an Iranian military vessel in the Red Sea, the American official said.

A cargo ship owned by the same company, the Helios Ray, was attacked by Iran earlier this year.

Iranian officials also revealed more details about the Natanz attack on Tuesday, suggesting that the damage was greater than Iran previously reported.

Alireza Zakani, a member of Parliament and head of its research center, said on state television that “several thousand of our centrifuges have been completely destroyed,” representing a large portion of the country’s ability to enrich uranium.

He described official statements on Monday that the facility would be quickly repaired as false promises.

Foreign intelligence officials have said it could take many months for Iran to undo the damage.

Iranian officials have been livid about the security lapses that have allowed a series of attacks on Iran’s nuclear program over the past year, ranging from sabotage of nuclear facilities to the theft of classified documents to the assassination of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist. Most of these attacks were presumed to have been carried out by Israel.

Mr. Zakani criticized Iran’s security apparatus as lax, saying it had allowed spies to “roam free,” turning Iran into “a haven for spies.”

He said that in one incident, some nuclear equipment belonging to a major facility was sent abroad for repair and that when it returned the equipment was packed with 300 pounds of explosives. In another incident, he said, explosives were placed in a desk and smuggled inside the nuclear facility.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at energy development. Israel claims that Iran had and may still have an active nuclear weapons program and considers the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat.

The nuclear talks that began in Vienna last week have been delayed because a member of the European Union delegation tested positive for the coronavirus. The talks could resume as early as Thursday if the member tests negative.

Patrick Kingsley, Ronen Bergman and Steven Erlanger contributed reporting.

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Iran Vows Revenge for Alleged Israeli Attack on Nuclear Site

JERUSALEM — The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, vowed revenge against Israel on Monday morning, a day after a blackout at an Iranian nuclear enrichment site was attributed to an Israeli attack.

Mr. Zarif’s comments highlight the risk of escalation in a yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel. They also threaten to overshadow efforts in Vienna to encourage Iran to reimpose limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions.

In a statement broadcast by Iranian state television, Mr. Zarif was quoted as saying: “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.”

He added, “But we will take our revenge from the Zionists,” according to the broadcast.

Mr. Zarif’s reported comments followed a power failure on Sunday at the Natanz uranium enrichment site that Iranian officials attributed to Israeli sabotage. The Israeli government formally declined to comment on its involvement, but American and Israeli officials confirmed separately to The New York Times that Israel had played a role. Several Israeli news outlets, citing intelligence sources, attributed the attack to the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

efforts by the Biden administration to encourage Iran to return to something close to a 2015 agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, in which Tehran promised to limit its enrichment program.

collapsed in 2018, when President Donald J. Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, and Iran reneged on commitments to curb its nuclear plans.

Israel opposes returning to the same deal, arguing that it did not impose strong enough or long enough restrictions on Iranian nuclear activity. Analysts were divided about whether Israel’s aggression was intended to scupper the negotiations altogether — or to simply weaken Iran’s hand at the table.

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said that the blackout did not augur well for the negotiations in Vienna. “What we are hearing currently out of Tehran is not a positive contribution, particularly the development in Natanz,” Mr. Maas said on Monday.

For years, Israel and Iran have been engaged in a low-level shadow conflict.

Both have been accused of cyberattacks on the other’s territory. Iran finances and arms militias hostile to Israel across the Middle East, and has been accused of attempted assassinations of Israeli diplomats across the world. Israel is believed to be responsible for the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, most recently in November, when a leading architect of the Iranian nuclear program was killed in an ambush.

Those attacks have escalated at sea in the past two years, as Israel began to attack ships carrying Iranian fuel, and Iran seemed to respond by targeting at least two Israeli-owned cargo ships.

Both sides managed to contain the conflict, partly by refraining from speaking too publicly about the attacks.

standing trial for corruption and is struggling to form a new coalition government after a general election last month that gave no party an overall majority. Some analysts say they believe that a very public confrontation with Iran might help Mr. Netanyahu persuade wavering coalition partners that now is not the time to bring down an experienced prime minister.

“He may want to both build up his image and create a little bit of a foreign policy crisis, which then helps him solve the coalition crisis,” Mr. Freilich said.

Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

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Blackout Strikes Natanz Nuclear Facility in Iran

The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran mysteriously lost power on Sunday, Iranian officials said, a blackout that came during negotiations in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the nuclear deal with Tehran that the Trump administration left.

Power was cut across the facility, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a civilian nuclear program spokesman, told Iranian state television, The Associated Press reported.

“We still do not know the reason for this electricity outage and have to look into it further,” Mr. Kamalvandi said. “Fortunately, there was no casualty or damage, and there is no particular contamination or problem.”

Malek Shariati Niasar, an Iranian lawmaker who serves as a spokesman for the Parliament’s energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the outage was “very suspicious,” A.P. reported. He raised the possibility of “sabotage and infiltration.”

engaging in a form of shuttle diplomacy.

One working group is focusing on how to lift economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, while another is looking at how Iran can return to the terms that set limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges needed to produce it.

remarks reported by Iran’s Mehr News Agency.

Word of the Natanz outage came as Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, was in Israel on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s defense minister, Benny Gantz.

At the meeting, Mr. Gantz said, “We will work closely with our American allies, to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel.”

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Iran Nuclear Talks Start on Positive Note in Vienna

BRUSSELS — Talks in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration left in 2018 and which Tehran began breaking a year later made some progress this week: They didn’t break down.

Senior diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord were positive and would continue next week.

Although there are no direct talks between Iran and the United States, the other signatories to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — are engaging in a kind of shuttle diplomacy between them.

One working group is focusing on how to lift the harsh economic sanctions that the United States imposed that are inconsistent with the terms of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. The other working group is focusing on how Iran can return to the limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges to produce it under the terms of the deal.

a Twitter message after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made.” The senior diplomats who meet in what is known as the Joint Commission — representing all signatories except the United States — will reconvene next week “in order to maintain the positive momentum,” Mr. Ulyanov said.

The Iranian representative, Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, said that the Joint Commission would meet again on Wednesday. In the meeting, he emphasized Iran’s commitment to the talks and that “this depends on the political will and seriousness of the other parties, otherwise there will be no reason to continue the negotiations,” according to comments posted on Twitter by the Iranian journalist Abas Aslani.

On Thursday, Mr. Araghchi told Iran’s Press TV that he saw hopeful signs from Washington about sanctions relief, but that “I think we have a longer road ahead, although we’re moving forward and the atmosphere is constructive.”

But a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said this week that Iran has now produced 55 kilograms, or around 120 pounds, of uranium enriched to 20 percent and within another eight months could reach 120 kilograms. In mid-February the amount was some 17.6 kilograms, which is indicative of why the other powers want to move quickly to bring Iran back to the limits mandated in the deal. Iran is also using advanced centrifuges and making uranium metal, both banned under the deal.

U.S. officials have worked to play down expectations for any quick breakthrough and have urged patience. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, has said that the United States is prepared to lift all the sanctions reimposed and new ones imposed by President Donald Trump after May 2018 that are “inconsistent” with the nuclear deal.

sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, for instance, imposed in September 2019, are under terrorism legislation. But analysts believe that Iran will not accept leaving that sanction in place.

In what has been perceived as a gesture of good will, Iran on Friday released a South Korean oil tanker that had been held since January in a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul in response to punishing American sanctions.

Iran had accused the ship, the MT Hankuk Chemi, of polluting the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, but the seizure was widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Seoul to release billions of dollars in Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks in response to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The European Union said in a statement after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the discussions held at various levels since the last Joint Commission in view of a possible return of the U.S.” to the nuclear deal and “discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”

The commission “was briefed on the work of the two expert groups on sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures and participants noted the constructive and results-oriented exchanges.”

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Iran and U.S. Agree on Path Back to Nuclear Deal

The new working groups are intended to create a road map for a synchronized return of both countries to compliance. But even if there is agreement, verification will take some time given the technical complications and the absence of trust on both sides.

For instance, companies that want to do business with Iran, and that were burned badly when Mr. Trump reimposed powerful American sanctions, will want to be sure that a new administration won’t reimpose sanctions. Iran will want to see economic benefits, not just the promise of them, and the United States will want the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that Iran has returned to compliance and is not cheating, as it has done in the past.

In Vienna, Iran met with the other current members of the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — in a grand hotel ballroom, while the American team, led by special envoy Robert Malley, worked separately in a nearby hotel. Iran has refused to meet directly with the United States, so the Europeans have been undertaking a kind of shuttle diplomacy.

The United States also wants to convince Iran to negotiate longer time limits for the accord and to begin further talks on limiting Iran’s missiles and support for allies and Shia militias through the region, including in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has said that it has no interest in considering further negotiations until the United States restores the status quo ante and rejoins the deal.

More broadly, American officials are trying to gauge whether the United States and Iran can agree on how each can come back into compliance with the nuclear deal — or, at least, work toward bridging any gaps in a mutual understanding.

Iran was represented by Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, who was crucial to negotiating the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., with the administration of President Barack Obama and Mr. Biden, then vice president.

Mr. Araghchi said in a statement after the talks that lifting U.S. sanctions would be “the first and most necessary step in reviving the J.C.P.O.A. The Islamic Republic of Iran is fully ready to stop its retaliation nuclear activity and return to its full commitments as soon as U.S. sanctions are lifted and verified.”

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U.S. and Iran Agree to Indirect Talks on Returning to Nuclear Deal

Mr. Biden’s team has said that once there is mutual compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., Washington wants to negotiate further with Iran to extend the time limitations in the deal and to try to constrain Iran’s missile programs and military support in the Middle East for groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Shia militias, as well as for the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

The European Union issued a chairman’s statement after the meeting on Friday announcing the Vienna talks “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.’’ All parties, including Russia and China, “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA,” the statement said.

Both sides have been trying, through the European participants, to find a way back to the agreement without causing political problems at home. Iran will hold presidential elections in June, and the government clearly wants to show progress toward the lifting of punishing sanctions before then. Mr. Biden must be careful not to give Republicans in the Senate, most of whom opposed the deal in the first place, any sense that he is giving in to Iranian demands.

While Iran has always insisted it will never seek a nuclear weapon, the country is now thought to be only a few months away from amassing enough highly enriched uranium to create at least one nuclear weapon, so time is a factor for Washington, too.

In Tehran, Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s nuclear negotiator in the meeting, said that “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear,” state television reported. Iran has insisted that since Washington was the one who left the deal, it must first return to it before Iran does, a public position it is likely to maintain despite the sequencing the Vienna talks are hoping to create.

Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that “the impression is that we are on the right track, but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.

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Kim Jong Un’s Long Game Starts With Short-Range Missiles

SEOUL—It was always more a question of when, not if, North Korea would return to weapons provocations. Now that it has, the Kim Jong Un regime is poised to unsheathe new weaponry that it has quietly developed in recent years.

First came a cruise-missile test in March that President Biden played down. Days later, Pyongyang unleashed a pair of ballistic missiles that Mr. Biden and other leaders decried as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

North Korea in recent weeks also engaged in increased activity at facilities suspected of making plutonium and uranium, key materials for nuclear weapons, according to satellite imagery analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Moreover, satellite pictures of a port on North Korea’s east coast showed movement near the port’s submarine-launch quay, indicating the regime could soon roll out a new missile-launching submarine, according to an analysis by 38 North, a website focusing on North Korea.

The activities suggest the regime is returning to a delicate but familiar dance.

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North Korea Doubles Down on Nuclear Weapons Plan After Biden’s Salvo

SEOUL—North Korea repeated its intent to expand its nuclear weapons program, after President Biden this week said that the U.S. would respond accordingly if the regime escalated tensions.

A senior military adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that Mr. Biden’s warning and characterization of the regime’s recent missile tests as violations of international rules threatened his country’s sovereignty and right to self-defense.

“If the U.S. continues with its thoughtless remarks without thinking of the consequences, it may be faced with something that is not good,” the adviser, Ri Pyong Chol, said in a statement released Saturday. “We will continue to increase our most thoroughgoing and overwhelming military power.”

The statement came after Mr. Biden criticized Pyongyang’s testing of missiles on Thursday. Officials said they were likely short-range ballistic missiles, a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, which restrict North Korea’s ballistic-missile activities. Previous tests of the same missiles have shown they can hit U.S. military bases in South Korea. Arms experts suspect that they can carry nuclear warheads.

The North Korean comments reflect the regime’s plans to intensify its weapons tests in the coming weeks and months, North Korea watchers said, and to justify such moves by putting the blame on the U.S.

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