IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told a press conference that Iran had informed the Agency of its intention to remove 27 cameras as well as an online monitoring system and a flowmeter from its nuclear facilities. The cameras would be removed in the coming days from various sites, including Natanz, Isfahan, Tehran and Karaj.  He said this “poses a serious challenge” for inspectors working there. He estimated that some 40 cameras would remain in place.

The equipment to be removed is basically all of the additional equipment which had been installed beyond the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) as a result of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran the P5+1 group of countries (the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany) under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear development in return for the lifting of sanctions. However, after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018, Iran began to gradually roll back on the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA, including oversight by the IAEA after the European parties to the agreement failed to put any measures in place to mitigate those sanctions. Grossi had nevertheless previously managed to reach agreement with Iran to keep most of the monitoring equipment in place.

The move was a response to a resolution passed by the IAEA Board of Governors on 8 June, sponsored by the US the UK, Germany, and France accusing Iran of insufficient cooperation with the IAEA on traces of nuclear materials identified at three locations.  The   resolution was approved with 30 votes in favour, two against (Russia and China), and three abstentions (India, Libya, and Pakistan).

In addressing the opening session of the Board’s regular quarterly meeting on 6 June, Grossi said Iran had “not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran”. Iran has also not informed the IAEA “of the current location, or locations, of the nuclear material and/or of the equipment contaminated with nuclear material, that had been moved from Turquzabad [one of the locations] in 2018,” Grossi noted. “The Agency remains ready to re-engage without delay with Iran to resolve these matters,” he said.

 

Following the BOG resolution, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) then issued a statement, declaring that Iran had so far shown extensive cooperation with the IAEA, which had not been appreciated, so AEOI decided that   cameras not covered by the CSA, an On-Line Enrichment Monitor (OLEM) and flowmeter would be deactivated. Iran also installed new centrifuges and began feeding gas to the advanced machines.

AEOI  spokesman Behrouz Kamalvan also announced ending some voluntary measures taken by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA as a sign of goodwill. Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the sponsors of the resolution would be responsible for its consequences, noting that Iran’s response would be decisive and appropriate. Iran’s foreign ministry described the resolution as being “hasty and unbalanced” and based on fake information provided by Israel. 

In his 9 June press conference, Grossi warned that the IAEA risks losing its continuity of knowledge about Iran’s nuclear activities, which is necessary for restoring the JCPOA, if the cameras remain disconnected for more than 3-4 weeks.

Fourteen months after the US joined talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the, experts say the Biden administration is unwilling to take the final steps  because of a lack of "political will". Much of the negotiated deal had been completed by March, said Naysan Rafati, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group. "In terms of the technical text, the Europeans have been saying this for months - that basically, they're ready to go. And what it's boiled down to are less of the technical issues and more of the political issues," he told Middle East Eye.

Before the negotiations stalled in April, the general parameters were already agreed, in terms of what steps Iran would take to get back into compliance under the deal, and what sanctions the US would lift, Rafati noted.

But with most of the agreement having been drafted, talks have stalled over Iran’s insistence that the USA must reverse Donald Trump's April 2019 decision to designate the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terror organisation (FTO). The IRGC listing is understood to be the final remaining impediment for a negotiated return to the deal. However in May US President Joe Biden finalised his position to keep the IRGC on the terror list and informed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the decision.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials continue to insist that Iran has no ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons, but wants to develop its nuclear technology. The leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa (religious decree) in April 2010, declaring production, stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as haram (religiously banned). Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian

Iran’s foreign minister reiterated on 11 June that Iran is not seeking a nuclear bomb, but will keep developing its nuclear knowhow. “Nuclear technology is a complex one. Only when a country develops its knowhow in the domains of physics, mathematics, chemistry and different dimensions of science and technology can it achieve nuclear technology,” he said. “Today, anyone who is in possession of nuclear knowhow enjoys the highest scientific status,” he explained. “A country which has nuclear knowhow enjoys knowhow in all technical-engineering fields as well as all areas of science and technology.”  

Grossi acknowledged in his press conference that many people in Iran were “very angry”. The prospects for renewed co-operation with the IAEA  or a revival of the JCPOA are not looking positive. However, he said there was always an opportunity for understanding and that the resumption of talks was the most rational option.

Date: Tuesday, 14 June 2022
Original article: neimagazine.com/news/newsiran-begins-removal-of-iaea-monitoring-systems-9767788