Last Thursday, it was reported that Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has struck yet another deal with the Iranian regime to delay the complete collapse of a monitoring program that is effectively keeping the 2015 Iran nuclear deal afloat amidst unproductive talks to revive it.
The IAEA’s monitoring work in Iran has been limited greatly since February by restrictions laid out by regime authorities to put pressure on the United States to grant the regime sanctions relief. Grossi previously negotiated with the regime to prevent his agency’s inspectors from being kicked out of Iran entirely. They were eventually allowed to remain but were prevented from inspecting sites in-person to carry out routine maintenance, and from accessing surveillance footage of nuclear sites.
Tehran promised to retain that data and release it to the IAEA following the restoration of the JCPOA. But in September, this arrangement faced a complication as the equipment in question reached a deadline for routine maintenance without which hard drives would have filled up and become incapable of recording new data.
Just two weeks after that deadline, it was found that Grossi had arranged a deal to allow the inspectors to perform needed maintenance and replace the hard drives, although it was agreed that the original hard drives would remain in possession of the regime.
It was later found that by refusing to grant inspectors access to a centrifuge manufacturing facility in Karaj, the regime was violating their agreement. This site incurred damage back in June as a result of upgrades to the centrifuges to allow the regime to enrich uranium closer to weapons-grade level. Under the terms of the JCPOA, the regime was only permitted to use IR-1 devices, however, with the upgrades, the devices have become more advanced.
Whatever the underlying cause, the damage at TESA Karaj supposedly knocked one of its four cameras offline. Instead of repairing or replacing it, Iranian authorities ultimately took down the other three, prompting renewed expressions of concern from the IAEA regarding the regime’s lack of transparency and refusal to cooperate.
Iranian officials have claimed that the reinstallations of the damaged cameras are an ‘imminent’ development but have continued to claim that any new footage from new cameras would still be off-limits to IAEA inspectors until the U.S. has resumed the regime’s sanctions relief which is an unlikely scenario.
Negotiations to restore the JCPOA resumed at the end of last month in Vienna but soon ran into obstacles when the regime stated that only when the U.S. gives in to their demands would they commit to negotiations.
Tehran has long suggested that it would begin to scale back provocative nuclear activities only after sanctions relief was confirmed. This has naturally been dismissed as a non-starter by the JCPOA’s Western signatories – each of which also condemned the regime during the latest Vienna talks for advancing proposals that were inconsistent with the compromises already reached at six previous sessions.
The head of the regime’s Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami commented on the IAEA’s recent quarterly report, stating that it had ‘drastically underestimated Iran’s stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium.’
He claimed that the stockpile was already greater than 120 kg last month, which if enriched further to 90-percent purity, would be enough to yield enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. Furthermore, the regime’s advanced centrifuges are making it possible for the enrichment process to rapidly accelerate, which means it will not be too long before their goal is reached.