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Nuclear Talks in Vienna: Tehran Continues Extortion 

The International Atomic Energy Agency released new reports on Wednesday which detailed Iran’s provocative nuclear activities and unresolved conflicts between the agency and the regime. The reports highlight a persistent lack of cooperation by the Iranian regime’s authorities even as they prepare to resume talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

The IAEA’s report estimated that stockpiles of the regime’s most highly enriched nuclear material had grown to 17.7 kg, from only 10 kg at the time of a previous report in August. Experts indicate that if refine further, this could yield 10 kg of 90-percent enriched uranium or about half of what would be needed for a nuclear weapon. In view of the regime’s present capabilities, it would likely be able to derive a further 10 kg of weapons-grade material from lower-enriched stockpiles in a matter of a few months. 

In October, following the release of the IAEA’s most recent quarterly report, the new head of the Atomic Energy Organization of the regime boasted that they had accumulated more than 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium. This figure was nearly 50 percent greater than the IAEA’s estimate, and Mohammad Eslami made a point of emphasizing that Tehran’s stockpiles “have more than that figure.” 

The vagueness of this statement was presumably intended to goad the international community over the limitations that were imposed on the IAEA’s work early this year. In February, nuclear inspectors were very nearly ejected from Iran following the implementation of a law that the regime’s parliament had passed in an effort to pressure Western countries to either remove or begin violating US sanctions that had been reimposed. A last-minute agreement brokered by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi prevented the ouster, but inspectors were thenceforth denied their previous access to nuclear facilities. 

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Since February, the regime has also prevented the IAEA from viewing video surveillance of those facilities. Another agreement was needed to enable routine maintenance on those cameras, as well as on other data collection equipment that Tehran has also been keeping off-limits. However, that agreement was so late in coming as to leave a two-week time period during which footage could not be recorded on account of storage devices being full. 

In at least one facility where uranium enrichment centrifuges are manufactured, that gap in knowledge has continued growing to the present day.  

Rafael Grossi will revisit Iran in the coming week. The planned meetings suggest that Grossi has still not given up on the prospect of salvaging the JCPOA, even though he has grown increasingly critical of both the Iranian regime and Western dealings with it. After the release of the second most recent quarterly report, Grossi stated publicly that Tehran’s provocations made it no longer feasible to simply restore the JCPOA without revisions or the adoption of a parallel agreement. Then, in October, he answered in the affirmative when asked whether it would be a good idea for the Board of Governors to censure Iran. 

On the other hand, in advance of the Vienna talks resuming, the Biden administration has stated that it believes more pressure on the Iranian regime is needed if the latter’s strategy of delay and obstruction persists. This belief is reportedly shared by the other Western signatories to the deal, as evidenced by joint statements following a recent visit to Washington by envoys from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. 

The past negotiations have proven to be fruitless, and the IAEA’s Board of Governors should put additional pressure on the Iranian regime with a formal censure when it meets next week. 

Tehran had stalled the Vienna talks in June when Ebrahim Raisi was selected as the regime’s president. Since then, Raisi has appointed foreign policy officials with a history of open hostility to the nuclear deal, and to the very concept of negotiations with Western powers. The regime has been dragging its feet with the nuclear deal for a long time. Striking deals with the regime or resuming negotiations would only allow the moribund regime to have more time for developing a nuclear bomb. Western powers should one and for all end Tehran’s nuclear program by increasing sanctions on the regime and reinstating the six resolutions by the UN Security Council about Iran’s nuclear adventurism.