October 20, 2021
Temporary measures to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities are no longer “intact,” the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned.
Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times that he urgently needs to meet with Iran’s new foreign minister to discuss proposals to resume monitoring.
“I haven’t been able to talk to (Hossein Amirabdollahian),” Grossi said. “I need to have this contact at the political level. This is indispensable. Without it, we cannot understand each other.”
Up until recently, temporary cameras and other monitoring devices had sustained an uneasy status quo following the breakdown of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — widely known as the Iran deal — which curbed the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The Biden administration had hoped to renegotiate the deal with Iran, but six rounds of indirect talks have stalled since Ebrahim Raisi was elected president in June.
The US State Department said it hopes Iran will return to the ongoing talks in Vienna “as soon as possible,” but President Joe Biden had “made clear that if diplomacy fails we are prepared to turn to other options.”
Iran has steadily revitalized its nuclear research and facilities in recent years, including by increasing the levels of enriched uranium it is producing, bringing it ever-closer to the highly enriched level required for nuclear weaponry. Grossi said Iran is “within a few months” of having enough material for a nuclear weapon.
The so-called breakout time — how long it would take Iran to field a nuclear weapon — is “continuously lessening” as it enriches more uranium with more efficient centrifuges, Grossi said.
He added that he needed working cameras in Iran’s recently reinstated Tesa Karaj manufacturing complex — which builds centrifuges — “yesterday.”
A last-minute compromise in February this year kept cameras rolling at key sites, albeit with an agreement to temporarily forgo examination of footage.
Last month, Grossi protested Iran’s refusal to allow surveillance at Tesa Karaj, which he views as a “very important” facility because of its role in manufacturing centrifuges.
“There is this issue with Karaj, and I’m working on it,” he said. ”Our stop-gap has been seriously affected so it’s not intact. But it’s not valueless either.”
Grossi said Tehran had told him he could meet Amirabdollahian “but they are taking their time.”