IAEA Chief: New Agreement Needed to Revive Iran Deal

Iran willing to return to compliance in exchange for relief from US sanctions

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog told Reuters in an interview published on Thursday that a new agreement would be needed to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

Over the past year, Iran began gradually violating its commitments to the JCPOA, a response to the US unilaterally withdrawing from the deal in 2018 by reimposing sanctions. Iran’s president and other officials insist these violations are easily reversible and that Iran can quickly come back into compliance in exchange for sanctions relief. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seems to disagree.

“I cannot imagine that they are going simply to say, ‘We are back to square one’ because square one is no longer there,” Rafael Grossi told Reuters. “There is more (nuclear) material, … there is more activity, there are more centrifuges, and more are being announced. So what happens with all this?”

Iran is currently enriching uranium at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than the 3.67 percent agreed to under the JCPOA. Iran is also stockpiling about 12 times more low-enriched uranium than the deal allows. But despite Grossi’s comments, enrichment could easily be scaled back, and the uranium stockpile could easily be exported to Russia, who makes fuel rods for Iran.

The other violations are new centrifuges being operated underground at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facilities. The move underground came after an explosion in the facility in July that damaged centrifuges, likely a case of Israeli sabotage. Iran has said this move is also reversible if the US lifts sanctions.

When asked if there would have to be a “deal within a deal,” Grossi responded: “Oh yes, oh yes. Undoubtedly. It is clear that there will have to be a protocol or an agreement or an understanding or some ancillary document which will stipulate clearly what we do.”

Iran’s public stance on the deal is that they will not negotiate any new arrangements with Washington until the US lifts sanctions and returns to its commitments under the JCPOA. For his part, Joe Biden has said he plans to work with Iran to return to the JCPOA and then negotiate a follow-on deal on top of it. Biden’s plan seems like it could be acceptable with Tehran, but Grossi’s comments are a sign of the complications ahead.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.