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Curbing Iran’s Nuclear Program; An Approach World Powers Never Tried


On Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General expressed concern over the Iranian regime’s nuclear activities and cover-up. According to Reuters, Rafael Grossi said the regime is “dragging its feet on information about uranium particles found at old undeclared sites in the country.”

“Speaking to the EU parliament, Grossi said he remained extremely concerned by the situation and had told Iran that he found it difficult to imagine that the nuclear deal could be finalized if the IAEA had serious doubts about things that it should have known about,” Reuters reported.

Grossi has traveled to Iran on several occasions, and during his last visit in March, he signed a three-month agreement with his Iranian counterparts. But, unsurprisingly, the regime did not abide by its commitments.

His remarks coincide with the recent trip to Tehran by the EU’s envoy to the nuclear talks in Vienna, Enrique Mora. Mora’s trip has been described as the EU’s last-ditch effort to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Grossi’s frustration with the Iranian regime’s cover-up over its nuclear activities confirms that Western powers’ futile effort to revive Iran’s nuclear deal cannot and will not curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The agreement was signed in 2015, with Western powers assuring the international community that they had postponed Tehran’s ability to produce an atomic bomb by significantly reducing its nuclear capabilities.

Yet, this claim was debunked by Tehran’s unexpected and rapid steps in breaching its commitments under the JCPOA, including the enrichment and the stockpiling of uranium at a much higher level than the one allowed by the deal.

The European powers, and the new administration in the United States, have so far tried to resurrect the deal by offering various concessions to Iran’s ruling theocracy. The Spectator reported in January 2022 that the U.S. tabled a proposal “that was so generous that the Iranians had to rub their eyes to believe it.”

But once the regime’s negotiators caught their breath and sensed weakness, they pushed for more. Tehran went as far as to insist that Washington remove the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. This demand caused a lot of stir in the United States and ultimately stalled the talks as, under pressure from Congress, Washington has been reluctant to fulfill the regime’s demand.

This brazen demand was not part of the 2015 nuclear deal and was in line with the regime’s maximalist approach that amounts to nuclear extortion. Tehran went as far as to demand the closure of the IAEA’s investigation into uranium particles found at three undeclared sites.

The impasse in Vienna talks has dragged on for months, and the regime has played the world powers as it enriches uranium. It has also relied on its “Eastern” allies, Russia and China, and benefited from the West’s weak approach to the demand for more concessions.

Now, many western diplomats suggest that there is practically no hope of saving the 2015 deal. On Tuesday, Ned Price, the U.S. State Department’s spokesperson, said: “It was never certain, it was never clear to us whether we’d be able to achieve a mutual return to [JCPOA] compliance, so we’ve always been engaged in contingency planning with our partners.”

Last week, Price said that the U.S. “was now bracing for either outcome.”

So, the question is, why are western powers continuing to push for a deal? It is perhaps because of their misreading and misinterpretation of Tehran’s intentions and actions.

They should understand that the Iranian regime’s actions are not being taken from a position of strength. There have been at least 12 major protests in Iran since 2018, with people calling for the mullahs’ overthrow. Iran’s economy is in shatters. The inflation hovers above 50%, most Iranians live under the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is soaring. The regime sits on a tinderbox. Daily protests by people from all walks of life are the broadest display of a volatile society. The regime has tied its destiny to obtaining a nuclear weapon and imposing its rule on both Iranians and the world powers. Negotiations will only buy Tehran more time and enable them to get closer to the bomb.

The mullahs in Tehran only understand firmness. They are on thin ice, and the ongoing warnings by regime state media and officials about looming uprisings, much more widespread and ferocious than before, attest to this reality.

“When people cannot provide for their livelihood, which is bread, the possibility of social anger is quite real. Even the French Revolution began when people couldn’t make a living,” Jahan-e Sanat daily warned Raisi’s government on May 8.

As world powers have tried and failed the same approach for more than two decades under various types of administrations in Tehran, perhaps they should try to listen to those inside Iran who have been consistent with their messaging and demand: a free, secular, democratic and non-nuclear Iran.