Iran Says it Won’t Give the IAEA Imagery Recorded at Nuclear Sites

By Patrick Goodenough | June 28, 2021 | 4:15am EDT
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s parliamentary speaker said on Sunday a temporary monitoring arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expired, and as a result, the regime will not provide the U.N. nuclear watchdog with recordings in its possession of footage from its nuclear facilities.

Another senior Iranian lawmaker went further, warning that if the United States does not lift its sanctions, the regime would also shut down altogether the IAEA’s surveillance cameras inside the sites in question, meaning no recordings will be made going forward either.

“If the sanctions are not lifted, not only will we not provide them with files and photos, but we will also turn off the cameras,” the Mehr news agency quoted Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, spokesman for the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, as saying.

“The U.S. has no right to impose its terms on us,” he said. “Because it violated the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] deal.”

The regime’s stance raises new questions about ongoing negotiations in Vienna aimed at returning the U.S. and Iran to compliance with the Obama-era JCPOA, from which President Trump withdrew in 2018.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Paris on Friday that the question of the expiring IAEA agreement “remains a serious concern” and “needs to be resolved.”

A day earlier, a senior State Department official briefing reporters on the talks in Vienna declined to “speculate as to what impact it would have on the talks” if Iran did not extend its agreement with the IAEA, but did say that the U.S. had “indicated clearly to Iran” that failure to do so would be “a complicating factor.”

IAEA monitors’ access to suspect sites in Iran was touted by the Obama-Biden administration as a key achievement in the JCPOA – although critics saw many flaws in the arrangements, and the regime itself vowed not to allow entry to military facilities.

After Trump exited the deal in 2018 and restored U.S. sanctions against Iran, the regime began a series of steps to reduce its compliance with the JCPOA.

Then last February it announced it was ending its compliance with the “Additional Protocol” of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which IAEA inspectors could access suspect sites at short notice. It also said it was walking away from some of the JCPOA’s “voluntary transparency measures.”

The IAEA responded to the brinkmanship by striking a temporary monitoring agreement with the regime allowing some of recording and monitoring measures to continue, but with the regime retaining the data collected by the cameras and other equipment, and the IAEA only getting access to it at some future date.

The three-month temporary arrangement was extended by a further month, but expired on Thursday, June 24.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi last week offered to extend the agreement, and called on Iran to provide “an immediate response” but to no avail

On Sunday the speaker of parliament, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, confirmed that the agreement had not been extended, and said that as a result none of the recordings made in the interim period would be handed over to the IAEA.

He said the information that has been recorded offline “will never be given to the IAEA and the data and images will remain in the possession of Iran.”

‘Iran will not negotiate forever’

Grossi told an IAEA board of governors’ meeting early this month that Iran’s lack of cooperation “seriously affects the ability of the IAEA to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

“Iran has provided no new information in relation to one location, has not answered any of the agency’s questions nor provided any information in relation to two other locations, and provided a written statement on a fourth location without any substantiating documentation,” he told the 35-country board.

The Biden administration’s efforts to return to the JCPOA has already hit potentially murky waters with the election of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president. To the extent that a president enjoys any actual authority in the Islamic Republic, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has been a supporter of the JCPOA. Raisi is ideologically closer to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The talks in Vienna involve the U.S., Iran and other parties to the JCPOA – Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. U.S. and Iranian officials are not negotiating directly, but through European intermediaries.

Six rounds of talks have taken place so far. On Saturday, the regime’s foreign ministry spokesman said Iran still believed that “a deal is possible, if the U.S. decides to abandon Trump’s failed legacy,” but added a warning that “Iran will not negotiate forever.”

In his comments in Paris, Blinken also cautioned that time may be running short.

“If Iran continues to spin ever more sophisticated centrifuges at higher degrees, if it pursues other aspects of its program that were prohibited by the JCPOA, there will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA of ensuring extensive breakout – breakout time, that is, the amount of time it would take Iran produce fissile materials for a nuclear weapon if it makes that decision. Which I think adds some urgency to this effort.”

“But we haven’t reached that point,” he continued. “I can’t put a date on it, but it’s something that we are conscious of.”

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