Iran has agreed to allow the international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), to access its monitoring equipment at nuclear sites. The talks on Sunday, September 12, took place just days before a meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors.
IAEA director-general, Rafael Grossi, hailed the meeting on Sunday as a means to “give space for diplomacy … so that wider solutions can be reached,” adding that the agreement will start getting implemented “within a few days.” The newly-appointed head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Mohammad Eslami, told the press that the two sides had agreed on replacing the memory cards of the IAEA’s monitoring cameras.
In a joint statement, the two agencies said that “IAEA’s inspectors are permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media, which will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Other issues that the IAEA has raised with Iran, such as getting access to monitoring equipment so the agency can continue tracking Iran’s nuclear activities as per the nuclear deal, have not yet been resolved. Still, the two sides agreed to hold additional talks later this month during the general conference of the IAEA in Austria. In two recent reports, the IAEA had criticized Iran for its actions concerning its monitoring equipment, saying such actions undermined verification and monitoring activities and expressed concerns over Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacities.
Iran currently has custody of all the recordings of its nuclear sites. It has said that it will only hand over those tapes to the IAEA in exchange for lifting the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States. The concerned parties, including the signatories of the nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA agreement, are expected to meet at Vienna’s general conference in a concerted effort to restore the nuclear deal in its entirety eventually. So far, six rounds of talks between the parties concerned have failed to yield any substantial result regarding the nuclear deal.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015 by Iran, China, Russia, the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU, was seen as a breakthrough in the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. The West, especially the US, and Iran’s regional rivals, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, have always alleged that Iran aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons. The deal lifted longstanding sanctions on Iran in exchange for monitoring by the IAEA, among other restrictions.
Iran has consistently maintained that it only intends to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 2018, under the leadership of president Donald Trump, the US withdrew from the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, sabotaging the international agreement and significantly increasing the risk of conflict. The current US president, Joe Biden, has expressed his intentions to re-enter the deal, as has newly elected Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi. Still, indirect talks held so far have not made any progress.