Two days after the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency took a political swipe at Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear chief fired back, calling Rafael Grossi’s remarks detrimental to the confidence-building process.
Mohammad Eslami, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), says the Islamic Republic has taken a string of confidence-building measures including the marathon talks that led to the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the installation of IAEA’s surveillance cameras in Iran’s nuclear sites. The United States, Brittan, France, Germany and the IAEA, however, have not appreciated Iran’s trust-building moves, according to Eslami. The nuclear chief, therefore, stresses Iran will continue to keep IAEA’s cameras operating beyond safeguard agreements turned off until the US returns to the JCPOA.
“Such cameras are part of the JCPOA. Should the Westerners return to the deal, we will make a decision on the cameras once we make sure there will be no mischief,” Eslami argued in a firm response to Grossi’s remarks on Friday when he said that the Iranian nuclear program “has grown enormously, far beyond what it was in 2015” and “is advancing at a gallop” while the IAEA has “very little visibility”.
He was referring to Iran’s decision to switch off some of the IAEA’s cameras in the wake of a Western-drafted resolution adopted by the Board of Governors last month, criticizing Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.
Iran says the resolution was politically motivated and issued based on Israeli claims which had been cited by Grossi in his reports.
Tehran believes the approval of the resolution amid talks to revive the JCPOA meant to pressure Iran and eroded trust.
Even the removal of those cameras does not mean that Iran has obstructed IAEA’s monitoring of its nuclear drive. Iran’s consent to allow the agency to set up the cameras was out of its goodwill and beyond its obligations.
According to AEOI, 80% of IAEA’s cameras are on as they are in place within safeguard agreements. Only 20% of them were operating beyond safeguard agreements to which Iran has made no commitment.
Before taking beyond-safeguard cameras off in June, Iran and the IAEA had agreed on a three-month deal under which the AEOI would keep footage recorded by the monitoring equipment until a deal was reached on the revival of the JCPOA. But the West torpedoed Iran’s goodwill gesture when it proposed its resolution to the IAEA’s Board of Governors.
Despite the continuation of nuclear negotiations and Iran's cooperation with the agency, baseless claims against Iran's nuclear program go on, including the recent one by Grossi who repeated that Iran’s explanations about alleged nuclear activities in three sites “have so far been insufficient” and “in some cases technically not credible”.
Eslami says the case of those sites had already been closed.
“If they have noble intentions, they should know that closed cases would not be reopened, and that the JCPOA was a response to these alleged cases,” the nuclear chief pointed out.
He argues that JCPOA cameras were installed to settle such allegations.
“If these accusations are going to stand, there is no reason for the JCPOA cameras to stay on."
Iran has not blocked IAEA’s supervision of its nuclear activities, rather it has merely removed beyond-safeguard cameras which were out of its official commitments. It was a response to the political measures taken by the US, the Europeans and the IAEA including the anti-Iran resolution.
Both Iran's goodwill and the operation of the beyond-safeguard cameras can be resumed, provided that the other side also demonstrates goodwill and accepts Iran's demands under the JCPOA.