Al-Monitor – Before signing the nuclear deal, Iran wants the IAEA to end its investigation — just like 2015.
EU presents ‘final text.’ As negotiators inch closer to a renewed nuclear agreement, Iran is seeking the shutdown of a yearslong investigation by the UN’s atomic energy agency into nuclear material found at the country’s undeclared sites.
On Monday, the European Union handed Iran and the United States what it described as a “final text” to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) following four days of intense negotiations in Vienna. Both countries have said they will review what’s in the EU proposal and report back.
Iran digs in on IAEA inquiry. Iran has backed off its previous demands that the renewed deal provide guarantees of the JCPOA’s survival past 2024 and that the United States take the IRGC off its formal terrorism blacklist.
As Ali Hashem reported at the start of the Vienna talks last week, Tehran instead wants the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to drop its three-year inquiry into man-made uranium particles found at three of Iran’s old but undisclosed nuclear sites, which potentially violate Iran’s longstanding safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
The IAEA said in May that the Iranians hadn’t provided “technically credible” explanations for the uranium, and in June, the agency censured Iran over its failure to cooperate. The Islamic Republic responded by disconnecting some of the IAEA cameras monitoring its nuclear sites.
Iran sees precedent in 2015, when the IAEA ended its long-running probe into whether Iran once operated a secret nuclear weapons program, with what it called a “landmark” resolution clearing the way for implementation of the JCPOA signed five months earlier.
This time around, the Iranians want the IAEA to not only close its current inquiry but make an affirmative statement that the file won’t be reopened again, said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“The Iranians want to make sure, just as they did in 2015, that if they’re going to sign the JCPOA and get a clean sheet from the IAEA, then this new investigation has to come to an end,” he said.
Mistrust runs deep. Parsi says Tehran is highly skeptical of IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, especially following his visit to Israel in June. It was information obtained by Israeli agents in 2018 that led to the IAEA’s uranium discovery.
That mistrust “is causing the Iranians to be less willing to share information and answer questions,” said Parsi. “It’s really very difficult for the IAEA to close or be satisfied with this file unless the Iranians cooperate.”
Closing the deal. Diplomats are reportedly discussing a deal that would end the IAEA’s probe in exchange for Iranian cooperation. Citing an unnamed senior Western official, Politico reported that the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors would pass a resolution closing the investigation if Iran provides credible answers on the uranium traces.
“These are questions that quite simply Iran does not want to answer because they likely date back to an active nuclear weapons program that Tehran denies ever existed,” said Henry Rome, deputy head of research at the Eurasia Group.
“Iran doesn’t want to, at least today, take the steps that would actually resolve the probes. But it also doesn’t want them to remain open,” Rome said.
The state of play. The United States says it’s ready to “quickly conclude a deal” based on the EU’s proposals. The Iranians have been less clear. The semi-official Nour News reported Tuesday that Iran “doesn’t accept the text as final.”
From our regional contributors
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