On June 8, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors voted overwhelmingly to adopt the resolution introduced by the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, censuring the regime in Tehran for non-cooperation with the agency’s inquiry into nuclear traces found at three undeclared sites.
However, the authorities in Tehran rejected the draft of that resolution even before it was adopted, and levied accusations of bias and conspiracy against the IAEA and the Western signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
In responding to a report from IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi the week before the Board of Governors’ meeting, Tehran even suggested that the unexplained traces of nuclear material at Turquzabad, Varamin, and Marivan could have been planted in an “act of sabotage” and blamed other countries for their own wrongdoing.
The regime’s denials and deflects are part of an effort to limit international awareness of the “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program.
Having revealed the existence of the Natanz and Arak nuclear sites in 2002, and various other sites and programs described in more than 100 revelations to the international community, the NCRI, has always emphasized the peril of pushing forward with an agreement in absence of a full accounting of military dimensions.
Whereas IAEA’s position had already come to be regarded as a potentially insurmountable obstacle to the JCPOA’s revival, each of the participants in that agreement remained unwilling to abandon the negotiations. This situation did not immediately change in the wake of the IAEA Board of Governors’ censure resolution.
But Tehran even teased that reaction before the censure was formally adopted, turning off two monitoring devices that the IAEA relied upon for monitoring the enrichment of uranium gas at the Natanz nuclear facility. This measure was accompanied by a statement from the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, urging Western nations to “come to their senses” and drop the proposed censure. When this did not happen, the AEOI initiated plans to remove 27 surveillance cameras from several nuclear facilities. Many commentators were quick to respond to Tehran’s reactions by saying that they might deal a final or fatal blow to the process.
These changes come at a time when Iran is already planning to install two new cascades of advanced enrichment centrifuges as Natanz, which could substantially speed up the rate at which uranium is enriched to Iran’s current high level of 60 percent purity, and potentially beyond that, to 90 percent, or weapons-grade.
For those who wanted to read Tehran’s intentions, actions speak louder than words.
Experts have stated that even under present circumstances, it would only take the mullahs a few weeks to enrich a portion of their current stockpile of 60-percent uranium to the level needed for a nuclear weapon. What’s more, the IAEA has stated that the known size of that stockpile, 43.1 kg, is already sufficient for one such weapon.
The removal of monitoring equipment will no doubt make it more difficult for the IAEA to make accurate estimates of the real-time stockpiles in Iran. Agency officials told the media on June 9 that they expect to lose “continuity of knowledge” within three to four weeks as a result of retaliatory measures taken by Tehran. But some critics would argue that the IAEA lost that continuity long ago if it had ever acquired it in the first place.
This conclusion is supported by statements such as that offered by Mohammad Eslami, the head of the AEOI, last year in an effort to portray his regime as having the upper hand in conflicts over the future of the nuclear agreement. Eslami pointed to what was then the latest IAEA estimate of Iran’s stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium and declared that the actual stockpiles were at least 50 percent larger than that.
No one can take Tehran at its words. One has also to look at how its leaders are communicating to their domestic audience.
The state-run website Farhikhtegan, affiliated with the Supreme Leader’s senior advisor and former FM Ali-Akbar Velayati wrote an article on June 16: “Before reaching a final agreement in Vienna, Iran must insist on closing the allegations against its peaceful program which has been put under the PMD label. This way, it will largely neutralize possible accusations in the future.”
As the Iranian Resistance has consistently said, the clerical regime’s nuclear weapons program has never been seized, and it has only been pushed deeper underground.
NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi released a statement on June 8 that described the BoG resolution as a “step forward”, but one that should quickly lead to the re-imposition of six UN Security Council resolutions that were suspended with the initial implementation of the JCPOA.
Tehran’s aggressive behavior at the negotiating table and around it is just another indication of malintent. If the international community wants to prevent another nuclear crisis, it must ignore Tehran’s embellished lip service and consider its internal communications as well as its actions.