D.he nuclear talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran have once again come to an end without any concrete results. Both sides only agreed on Tuesday to continue the talks. Both Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian and Iran’s nuclear chief Mohamed Eslami assured IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi that the Iranian nuclear program is peaceful and that the country does not want to build nuclear weapons. Iran still does not grant the IAEA the access to certain nuclear facilities required by Grossi in accordance with the Vienna Atomic Energy Agreement of 2015 (JCPOA).
In reports to the IAEA bodies, Grossi warned of rapidly growing stocks of highly enriched uranium. At the same time, Iran did not allow agreed surveillance measures in some cases and harassed inspectors. It even refuses to provide answers that Iran is required to provide under the basic IAEA documents, regardless of the suspended JCPOA agreement. In the coming week, the international negotiations on a possible restoration of the JCPOA agreement are to be resumed in Vienna.
Biden wants to return to the nuclear deal
Since the last round of negotiations almost six months ago, the talks have been on hold because the political leadership in Iran has changed. The new government under President Raisi is fundamentally opposed to the nuclear deal. The action plan agreed in 2015, which provided for strict limitation and control of the Iranian nuclear program and, in return, the lifting of sanctions, was unilaterally terminated in 2018 by then American President Donald Trump and was subsequently disregarded by Iran more and more widely.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden wants to return to the JCPOA agreement. Negotiations have been taking place in Vienna since April, whereby the Iranians do not want to sit at the table with the Americans who have left the agreement, but rather talk to the remaining powers of the agreement at that time, Russia, China and the three European countries Great Britain, France and Germany.
Until the beginning of June, representatives of the then rather moderate Iranian government sat opposite them, who were already negotiating tough. Now it’s the hardliner Raisi’s negotiators. In preliminary talks they did not even seem to want or even be able to tell the Europeans clearly whether they would take over the “acquis”, that is, what agreements and text work had been achieved to date.
Grossi’s most recent report to the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna, which will begin its session this Wednesday for the autumn quarter of 2021, shows how far the activities of the Iranian nuclear program have now progressed beyond the limits of the JCPOA. The Vienna-based UN agency estimates that Iran has 17.7 kilograms of uranium that has been enriched to 60 percent and 113.8 kilograms of 20 percent uranium. In the JCPOA, Iran had undertaken not to enrich it at all above the threshold of 3.67 percent. But the country also has many times the amount of such low-enriched uranium.
“Excessively intrusive body-close searches”
In addition, Grossi complains in his report that the inspectors have been exposed to “excessively intrusive body-close searches by security forces” for months. In addition, they would no longer have been given access to many areas. Even the agreement reached in September (already under the new Iranian leadership), according to which the IAEA may at least wait for surveillance cameras and their storage media in Iran will be locked up and not deleted, has not been complied with, according to Grossi.
This affects cameras in a facility in Karaj, where an act of sabotage is said to have occurred in June. The Iranian side claims that the surveillance technology was used for the attack, which Grossi clearly rejected.
The stocks of highly enriched uranium are so large that, according to the ISIS Institute in Washington, there would be enough material for a first atomic bomb within three weeks and enough for a second nuclear weapon within two months of such a “breakout” from all restrictions.
International observers and diplomats are just as concerned that Iran has gained a lot of knowledge and experience in high enrichment and in skipping enrichment steps by testing modern centrifuges and using additional sites. In contrast to material stocks, this increase in know-how is irreversible, even if a return to the JCPOA were successful.
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