Iran has agreed to allow international inspectors to install new memory cards in surveillance cameras that monitor Iranian nuclear sites.
The deal came days after reports from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had blocked its investigations and hampered its surveillance activities. Western countries, including the United States, have reportedly considered censoring Iran for its reluctance – an act that could itself risk jeopardizing continued talks to get Iran to honor the 2015 nuclear deal. .
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi traveled to Tehran this weekend to discuss the situation with the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. “We have had a major communication breakdown with Iran which, of course, is something we cannot afford, having so many important issues that we have to resolve,” Grossi told reporters after his return. , according to the Associated Press. “And I think that has been resolved.”
At the end of the meeting, a joint statement from the two organizations announced that they had “reaffirmed the spirit of cooperation” and promised to continue discussions. The statement also recognized that inspectors could “maintain the identified equipment and replace their storage media”.
Surveillance footage will continue to be kept under seal inside Tehran, where inspectors currently do not have access. But in the event that a broader deal to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal is reached, this weekend’s deal would ensure “continuity of knowledge,” Grossi said. Broken and damaged cameras would also be replaced, he added.
The development may seem like a minor victory for inspectors, but this weekend’s deal could also indicate that Iran’s new government may be open to the resurrection of the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Plan d joint global action. Questions about the deal’s fate have swirled since Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on Iran.
The Biden administration, along with its European counterparts, has tried to restore the deal. But it is not clear whether Iran, led by hardline chairman Ebrahim Raisi since last month, would be receptive to further negotiations. Now some analysts say the door may be open.
“The last-minute deal between Iran and the IAEA postpones a crisis that an Iranian administration determined to destroy the JCPOA would have welcomed,” said Ali Vaez, Iran project director at Crisis Group. “This was the first test for Raisi and it is now clear that he wants the JCPOA to be restored. Whether it can muster enough flexibility within the political establishment in Tehran to accept the painful compromises required is a question. different.”
The agreement “keeps alive the chances of resuming talks on a return to respect for the JCPOA, probably in early October,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Initiative for the Future of Iran at the Atlantic Council. “My main concern now is that the Iranian negotiating team remains largely intact and that Iran builds on the progress made in the previous six rounds of talks in Vienna.”
But there is another way to look at recent events, says Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “Observers should not be fooled: this is power politics,” said Ben Taleblu, who supports a new censorship resolution against Iran’s nuclear advances.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said in February that it would continue to record information for potential review by the IAEA. But the atomic watchdog said in May it had not been able to access key data since February.
“This latest IAEA ‘safeguard’ appears to maintain the Ponzi scheme from February, whereby the IAEA will have access to surveillance equipment,” said Ben Taleblu. “While in reality Iran could resuscitate this crisis in a few months by threatening to remove surveillance tapes and other data if it is not offered sanctions relief.”
Speaking to reporters, Grossi acknowledged that the deal was an interim measure. “It cannot be a permanent solution,” he said. “If you ask me how many months, how many days, it’s hard for me to say. But I don’t see it as a long-term perspective.”