IAEA Monitoring May Prove Crucial To Nuclear Deal

Over the last week, Iran and the United States revived discussions over rejoining the nuclear deal from 2015 in Vienna. These discussions continue in the wake of the U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) extending its recently expired monitoring agreement of Iran through June 18, per Reuters. The extension of this agreement will deter a fallout in the negotiations between Iran and the United States, and will hopefully encourage full compliance between the two countries and others. The 2015 accord was designed to “ensure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons” by capping the uranium enrichment program, although Tehran states it never wanted to build atomic or hydrogen bombs.

Many European diplomats discussed the negative impact had the monitoring pact not been renewed and warned of endangerment of the nuclear deal (Reuters). According to Reuters, senior diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany (known as the E3) commented a note of caution saying “there are still some very difficult issues ahead. We do not underestimate the challenges that lay before us”. Iran’s presidential election is June 18 and since the monitoring agreement will be up after the election, those taking part in the dialogue for the major powers and IAEA will change (Reuters).

The change could either increase the support for rejoining the deal or decrease the respect for the IAEA and cause heightened tensions between Iran and the watchdog. Officials have made clear they want to facilitate as many negotiations as possible before Iran’s election. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi spoke at a conference recently stating, “the equipment and the verification and monitoring activities that we agreed [upon] will continue as they are now for one month, expiring then on June 24”, according to Reuters. Kazem Gharibabadi, Iranian ambassador to the agency also spoke at the same conference and urged the powers meeting in Vienna to really capitalize on the extra time awarded by the extension. Gharibabadi touched on Iran’s “good faith” and urged those participating to “lift all the sanctions in a practical and verifiable manner” (Reuters).

The initial three-month agreement came in February after Iran restricted its cooperation with the IAEA and its inspectors. The way the IAEA monitors Iran is through a black box-type system where the IAEA can only check collected data at a later date. This means all the data gathered by the IAEA over the last three months will only be accessible after June 24, although according to Grossi, he will still be able to provide updates of Iran each quarter in the same way (Reuters).

In 2018, former U.S President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions for trade and economics on Iran. The response from Iran was breaching the 2015 deal restrictions on nuclear testing. Iran also moved to exclude the IAEA’s access to legislation, which is seen by many as a way of pressuring President Joe Biden into returning to the nuclear pact (Reuters). The spokesmen from France, Germany, and Britain all urged how crucial it was that Iran let the IAEA continue their monitoring and verification work while also urging the two players to “find a way forward”. The statement released by the E3 read “IAEA access will, of course, be essential to our efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), as a deal cannot be implemented without it”. The continued monitoring of Iran and Tehran’s nuclear actions by the IAEA is crucial to a positive outcome for both the United States and Iran.

The hope is that Iran and the United States will be willing to meet at the halfway point and agree to uphold their ends of the nuclear deal from 2015. Other than the two countries directly involved, many European countries are invested in the discussions and are pressuring Iran into cooperating with the IAEA.