As of Monday, 28 June, Iran has not reached a final decision regarding interstate conversations surrounding the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring deal. The 2015 nuclear surveillance program, which lapsed earlier in June, aimed to limit nuclear weapons production in participating countries. In exchange for Iran’s cooperation, other nations agreed to lift their sanctions on the country.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, “no decision has been made yet, either negative or positive, about extending the monitoring deal,” and “there has been no new decision about deleting the data and footage from the IAEA’s cameras.” Yet, a statement from Iran’s Speaker of Parliament revealed that “Tehran will never hand over images from inside of some Iranian nuclear sites to the IAEA, as the agreement with the agency had expired.” Furthermore, despite persistent requests from other world leaders, Iran has maintained its position that “Tehran was under no obligation to provide an answer.”
The issue is evidently problematic for a multitude of reasons. By not providing a clear or immediate answer, Iran is, whether intentionally or unintentionally, increasing tensions with other countries that are wary of Iran’s future actions. Moreover, because many of these other countries have already committed to surrendering their nuclear weapons, this decision poses a complex security dilemma in which, if other states feel threatened by the possibility of Iran’s arsenal, they will likely take measures to defend themselves and perhaps decide to engage in nuclear arms.
Additionally, despite other countries’ concerns and efforts to incentivize actions, sanctioning Iran is not a viable, ethical, or sustainable solution. The sanctions enacted upon Iran ultimately must be lifted in order to reduce the harm they inflict upon its citizens. Because sanctions typically target the economies of governments, they disproportionately impact the well-being of the working class rather than the officials whom they are meant to punish. Moreover, these sanctions are likely to cause increased unemployment and financial strain, decreased available resources, and they will ultimately have significant long-term effects on the Iranian population, who have little to no power in the decision over which the sanctions are being imposed. In the case of Iran, the BBC has reported the sanctions as responsible for “pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests,” creating further unease and instability within the country.
According to Reuters, the 2015 agreement allowed for the IAEA’s “collection of data on some of Tehran’s activities,” which continued despite Iran’s decision in February to distance itself from the nuclear watchdog and limit extra monitoring of certain surveillance sites. The original deal also included the participation of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the United States. However, in 2018, under the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States “abandoned the deal…and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to respond by violating many of its restrictions.” Now, during President Joe Biden’s term, the United States is eager to resume the agreement as well as the respective regulations of Iran’s nuclear activities.
Other countries have also expressed concerns regarding Iran’s lack of response. France has conveyed unease and asserted the importance of Iran’s continued collaboration with the IAEA, and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has cited a failure by Iran to continue the deal as a “serious concern.”
While the discussion between Iran and other international parties has been paused, they are expected to resume in the near future. It is unclear what exactly Iran’s plans will be, but they are likely to have a widespread impact on all nations affiliated with the IAEA’s services.
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