Iran stops sharing images with IAEA

29 June 2021

The Iranian parliament said on 27 June that an agreement to share images from certain nuclear sites with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had ended, state-run news agency Tasnim reported. The announcement by Tehran effectively ends the international monitoring of Iran's nuclear programme, which formed part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran the P5+1 group of countries (the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany). Under the agreement Iran had undertaken to limit its nuclear development in return for the lifting of sanctions.

However, Iran began to gradually roll back on the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018. US President Joe Biden is seeking to reinstate the JCPOA, and indirect talks began in April. However, Iran is continuing to insist that sanctions must be lifted before it will reimpose limitations on its nuclear development programme.

Stringent IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities had continued until February, when the law adopted by the Iranian parliament at the end of 2020 came into force. The law had instructed the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI) to increase uranium enrichment activities and stipulated that Iran should suspend its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, which allowed regular intrusive inspections of its facilities by IAEA.

In February, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi visited Iran and secured a temporary agreement to allow continued IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear activities, despite the new law coming into effect, so that diplomatic negotiations on the wider issues could continue. A temporary bilateral technical understanding was reached whereby the IAEA would continue essential verification and monitoring activities for up to three months. Grossi managed to get this extended for a further month in late May but that deadline has now expired. Another intervention by Gross is thought to be likely

Iran’s Parliamentary speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf told lawmakers that "nothing has been extended after the three-month period and following that, none of the information subject to recording will be given to the IAEA, but will remain at the disposal of the Islamic Republic of Iran." The failure to extend the deal could jeopardise ongoing talks on the JCPOA, especially in the wake of presidential elections in Iran on 18 June in which saw Ebrahim Raisi win in a landslide victory. Raisi is generally seen as more hardline that outgoing President Hassan Rouhani.

As talks continue in Vienna on reviving the JCPOA, Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani (brother to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) that Raisi is optimistic about the settlement of problems regarding the agreement. “In his first press conference, when Raisi was asked by a Russian journalist about the possibility of his meeting with US President Joe Biden if the JCPOA issue is settled, he said no. And in reaction to his negative response, the US also made it clear that they are not going to meet Raisi or ask Iran for anything at that level,” Rafsanjani said. However, he added that Iran’s policy regarding the JCPOA will apparently remain the same as the current policy adopted by the Rouhani administration. Raisi takes office in August and analysts expect intense efforts to find a solution to the JCPOA before that time. The talks in Vienna involve representatives of all the JCPOA signatories. However Iran and the US are not talking directly.

Meanwhile, US anti-Iranian rhetoric is ramping up along with actions viewed by Tehran as hostile. The US has removed Iran’s Press TV news service and some other media from the entire internet, in an unprecedent move, widely seen as international censorship. On 23 June Iranian media reported that a failed drone attack of a building at the AEOI. The quadcopter that was purportedly used in the incident was eventually shot down.

Iran’s chief negotiator on the Vienna talks, Seyed Abbas Araghchi said on 27 June : "There are a series of issues that have been negotiated enough and it is time for countries to decide." He added: "So far, six rounds of talks have been held with the P5 + 1 and we are almost close to the final stages.” He said Iran had already made tough decisions by staying in the JCPOA after the US withdrew, thereby preserving the agreement. Now it is time for the other parties to take touch decision, he noted. 

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