The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reached an understanding with Iran that dampens the effect of the restriction on its inspections.
Although Tehran has not withdrawn its ultimatum to reduce cooperation with that UN body as of Tuesday, the two sides have agreed to maintain the necessary vigilance for three months, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi announced on Sunday night on your return to Vienna. That gives scope for unlocking the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with the great powers. However, the arrangement has unleashed a political storm in this country.
The Iranian Parliament, dominated by the ultra-conservatives, has interrupted the debate on the next budgets on Monday to address the matter. Numerous MPs have criticized the compromise and called for President Hasan Rohaní to be prosecuted for circumventing the law they passed last December demanding that IAEA inspections be limited . The Government, for its part, claims to have achieved “a significant diplomatic result.”
“What has been done is totally within the framework of the Parliament’s legislation,” Foreign spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by the English-language Iranian network PressTV. “No concessions have been made to the United States,” he insisted.
The brief joint statement ensures that Iran and the IAEA have reached “a temporary bilateral technical understanding, consistent with the law [of the Iranian Parliament], by which the IAEA will continue with the necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to three months (according to an annex technical)”.
Although it is not clear how the surveillance will be compatible with the announced restriction of access to inspectors, it seems that Grossi’s visit has allowed Tehran to find a formula to evade his ultimatum on the matter.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has explained in a note collected by the Iranian media that Tehran “is going to keep the information from the surveillance equipment [camera recordings] for three months without giving the IAEA access to the tapes.” The fate of these images will depend on whether the United States lifts the sanctions: in that case, Iran will hand them over to the inspectors; if not, it will destroy them.
“What we have achieved is something viable, useful to bridge the gap that we had, save the situation for now. But of course, for a sustainable and stable solution there has to be a political negotiation that is not my competence ”, declared the IAEA director. His words imply that the arrangement opens an opportunity to rescue the nuclear agreement that Iran signed in 2015 with the great powers.
That is the background to the problem. Since the United States abandoned that pact in 2018 (and reimposed its sanctions), Tehran has responded with a trickle of increasing defaults . The latest announced is precisely the cessation of surprise visits (in reality, with a short notice) by UN inspectors to undeclared sites that he accepted at the signing of the nuclear agreement .
The Iranian Parliament decided to suspend them as a measure of pressure for the United States to lift the sanctions. That is not the same as abandoning the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows the IAEA to monitor its declared nuclear facilities, and in fact the number of inspectors posted to Iran remains unchanged.
The importance of the compromise negotiated by Grossi is more in the context than in its technical content. The new US president, Joe Biden, has expressed his intention to reactivate the nuclear deal, something the Iranian government also wants. However, each expects the other to make the first move . Any advance that can unlock that situation counts. The three-month margin won by the IAEA (even if it borders on the letter of the agreement) is added to other gestures that can help build trust.
The Iranian Foreign spokesman also confirmed that the United States has “begun to communicate” with Iran about an eventual exchange of prisoners , as the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan advanced the day before.
“We have received some messages through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and foreign ministers from various countries that the new US Administration is ready to address the matter. We have responded in the same way that our offer from two years ago in New York still stands, ”Khatibzadeh said.
In addition, the Central Bank of Iran announced an agreement with South Korea for the transfer of Iranian funds frozen in banks in that country due to US sanctions and which are estimated between 7,000 and 9,000 million dollars (between 5,800 and 7,400 million euros ). Although negotiations have accelerated since Tehran held back a South Korean oil tanker last January, it would have been more difficult if Washington had openly opposed it.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has once again supported his country’s nuclear endeavor on Monday. “The Islamic Republic is not going to back down [despite Western pressure] and will continue to advance according to its needs,” he declared before the Assembly of Experts, according to PressTV.
“The uranium enrichment level will not be limited to 20%. We will increase it to the level that the country needs … We can increase it to 60% ”, he added defiantly. The nuclear agreement establishes a ceiling of 5% that Iran already claims to have exceeded, and to reach military rank it must exceed 90%.
Khamenei has reiterated that this is not his goal. However, he has warned “the Zionist clown who insists that he will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, that if the Islamic Republic decided to manufacture them,