World Insights: Int'l community pins hope on Iran-IAEA deal to overcome nuke impasse

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by Hassan Rouhvand and Xia Chen

TEHRAN, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- A new deal sealed between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on Sunday has provided time and raised hopes for diplomatic talks between Tehran and Washington to ease tensions and overcome a nuclear impasse.

According to the agreement, Iran will stop implementation of voluntary measures envisaged in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, as of Feb. 23, to comply with a law passed by its parliament.

In the meantime, the IAEA will continue its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to three months, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters after his visit to Iran on Saturday and Sunday.

Grossi's visit and the subsequent agreement came in the face of Western alarms over Iran's imminent abandonment of another nuclear commitment, and before the Feb. 23 deadline set by Iran for the United States to lift crippling sanctions.


Following the clinch of the JCPOA in 2015, Iran agreed to allow voluntary snap inspections by the IAEA, which provided the UN nuclear watchdog with additional tools for verifications concerning Iran's nuclear program.

However, Iran's decision to abandon the commitment, namely the IAEA's additional protocol, heightened Western alarms.

In response to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018 and re-imposition of sanctions, Iran started in May 2019 to step-by-step suspend implementing major parts of its obligations under the deal, including the increase in stockpile of low-grade enrichment beyond the limits stipulated in the JCPOA, resumption of nuke-related research and development activities, and testing of advanced centrifuges.

Accordingly, France, Germany, and Britain warned that Iran's move had violated the JCPOA which could prompt a special dispute mechanism.

Despite the Western warning, Iran continued to scale back from its nuclear commitments.

In January, Iran launched 20-percent uranium enrichment process as part of its strategic action plan to counter sanctions, which was approved by the parliament in December 2020.

Besides, "the IAEA on Feb. 8 verified 3.6 gram of uranium metal at Iran's Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant in Esfahan," said an IAEA statement.

The parliament law also mandated the Iranian government to stop implementing the IAEA's additional protocol as of Feb. 23.


The deal between the IAEA and AEOI sparked immediate backlash from the Iranian principlist-majority parliament.

Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf on Monday said that any cooperation between Iran and the IAEA beyond the safeguards agreement would be within the competence of the legislature, according to Tasnim news agency.

"Any kind of access (to Iran's nuclear sites) beyond the safeguards agreement will be absolutely forbidden and illegal," said Qalibaf, adding that any future cooperation between Iran and the IAEA beyond the safeguards agreement will depend on the parliament's decision.

In a reaction to the lawmakers' concerns, AEOI said in a statement on Monday that "there will be no access and no inspection beyond safeguards agreement as stated in the law passed by Iran's parliament."

Referring to the continuation of necessary verifications and monitoring by the IAEA, the statement said that "Iran will record and maintain the information related to some activities ... for three months."

"During this period, the IAEA will have no access to the (recorded) information, and it will be kept only by Iran. If (U.S.) sanctions are removed in this period of three months, Iran will transfer the information to the IAEA; otherwise, the information will be removed forever," it added.


Despite the willingness of the new U.S. administration to re-engage with the P4+1 (including Britain, China, France, Russia plus Germany) and Iran for revival of the JCPOA, Tehran and Washington have been stuck in an apparent diplomatic stalemate for weeks over which side should be the first to take effective actions to revive the JCPOA.

U.S. President Joe Biden has rejected his predecessor Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" policy on Iran only in words, but in practice he is following the same course of action so far, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday.

Earlier, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said that Iran was considering the European Union's offer to attend an informal meeting between Iran and other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, with the United States also attending as a guest.

"The United States should first announce its commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement to be able to return to the deal," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday. "Washington has to remove anti-Iran sanctions, so that they can enter dialogue within the framework of the JCPOA."

On Monday, Iranian political analyst Jalal Khoshchehreh wrote in the Arman Melli daily that the United States has taken symbolic steps, including retrieval from activation of trigger mechanism and lifting restrictions on Iranian diplomats in the UN, to show its goodwill.

Although the U.S. gestures can be considered as positive steps "for future talks," they are not tangible moves for Iran in practice, Khoshchehreh noted.

"Tehran demands practical action" by the United States, Khoshchehreh said, noting that Iran demands that the U.S. administration initially lift some of its anti-Iran sanctions.

It seems that the situation would be critical and tough, "but we can still be hopeful," he pointed out. Enditem

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