The gesture says nothing of the rest. But the staunch rescuers of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPoA) want to see this as an encouraging signal. On Sunday, September 12, Iran accepted the replacement of memory cards in surveillance cameras installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its listed sites.
Rafael Grossi, the director of the IAEA, was present that day in Tehran on an almost desperate mission, just before the organization’s board of governors was held. “This cannot be a permanent solution”, recognized the diplomat on his return to Austria. This last-minute concession made it possible to reject the prospect of a Western resolution in Vienna condemning Iran’s attitude. But it only solves a one-off technical problem.
Tehran withdrew from the cooperation agreement with the IAEA in February, then accepted a sort of informal interim solution, while maintaining the security cameras. Since the end of June, Iran had not confirmed the renewal of this option, nor given access to inspectors for the technical overhaul of the equipment.
In its latest report released on September 7, the IAEA found that its verification and inspection capabilities had been “Seriously compromised” since February. Tensions around these visits were heightened, according to the Wall Street Journal, through several cases of harassment and inappropriate actions towards inspectors.
Iran plays with Western nerves
The Agency’s mission is only one aspect of the Iranian dossier. The United States and the three European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom) are impatient with Tehran’s delaying tactics. Since June, there has not been a new meeting between diplomats in Vienna to try to save the JCPoA. The election to the Iranian presidency of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi on June 18 resulted in paralysis.
Officially, the new government team is asking for time to set up. But in Washington as in the other capitals concerned, one wonders about a possible Iranian strategic change and one enumerates the nominations favorable to the harshest wing of the regime. Does Tehran still want to save the 2015 agreement, or is the government betting on a rupture and the country’s economic resilience in the face of sanctions? Does the catastrophic US military withdrawal from Afghanistan weaken Washington’s position on the traditionally hermetic nuclear issue?
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