Iran reverses opposition to IAEA inspections, vows to cooperate with nuclear watchdog

Vague pledge comes two days before meeting where sanctions against the country could be discussed.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Following two days of talks with Rafael Grossi in Tehran, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has promised to cooperate more with the nuclear watchdog while leaving the details vague.

In a joint statement on Saturday, Iran’s atomic agency and the IAEA said they had agreed that Iran would “provide further information and access to address the outstanding safeguards issues” regarding “the three locations.” These are places where traces of uranium particles were found but which the Islamic Republic had never declared as nuclear sites.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had outed an alleged secret nuclear warehouse in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, in a 2018 address to the UN. The next year, he broke the news of another site, used for nuclear experimentation, located in Abadeh, south of Isfahan, which he said the authorities had destroyed and covered over as soon as they learned that it had been discovered. A third site, just east of Tehran, was revealed in 2020 by the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Information on all three was provided to the IAEA, but Iran has not allowed outside inspectors to visit any of the sites except Turquzabad, calling such inspections last year “unconstructive,” and threatening that “The agency should be aware of the destructive consequences of publishing such one-sided reports,” referring to Iran’s supposed intransigence on the issue.

The joint statement also referred ambiguously to some 30 IAEA cameras that Iran removed last June in such known nuclear facilities as Isfahan and Natanz, following a rare rebuke by most of the members of the agency’s 35-nation board of governors about Tehran’s stonewalling.

“Iran, on a voluntary basis will allow the IAEA to implement further appropriate verification and monitoring activities,” it said, with “modalities” to be agreed upon “soon.”

Iran has made promises on both issues before without following through.

Grossi had warned at the time that disconnecting the cameras and enrichment monitors meant that the IAEA would no longer have a “continuity of knowledge” about Iran’s nuclear programs, which “would be a fatal blow” to any resuscitation of a nuclear deal with Tehran.

The most recent issue that has sharply raised concerns in the West was not addressed at all – that of the discovery that Iran has enriched at least some uranium to a staggering 84% level of purity, just a hairsbreadth away from official nuclear-weapons grade. Tehran has denied trying for this level, saying that perhaps a tiny amount was only enriched that far accidentally.

Even the 60% level that Iran has admitted to producing can be used in a so-called dirty bomb. The nuclear bombs that the American used to hit Nagasaki and Hiroshima to end World War II with Japan used a mixture of 89% and 50% purity, for an average of 80%. Less than a kilo of its 64-kilo weight actually underwent nuclear fission, yet it exploded with the energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT.

Grossi met not only with his local nuclear counterpart, Mohammad Eslami, who is also the Iranian vice president, but also with President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. This perhaps underlined the seriousness with which the Islamic Republic is taking the quarterly meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors on Monday, which could theoretically turn the issue of Iran’s defiance over to the UN Security Council.

The way the 2015 nuclear deal was constructed, snapback sanctions on Iran cannot be vetoed by any nation, meaning that neither Russia nor China could stop the process if Iran is officially found to be noncompliant under the terms of the treaty.


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