Saturday June 11, 2022

Fresh trouble between Iran and IAEA

Fresh trouble between Iran and IAEA

Rafael Mariano Grossi

The strained relations between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) took another bad turn when IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Thursday that Iran has removed 27 surveillance cameras from it nuclear sites, making it more difficult for the nuclear watchdog to keep an eye on Iran’s nuclear activities. This leaves 40 surveillance cameras in action. But the sites where the cameras have been removed include the Natanz underground uranium enrichment facility. Grossi said, “We are in a very tense situation with the negotiations over the (nuclear deal) at a low ebb. Now we are adding this to the picture; as you can see it’s not a very nice one.”

Grossi also informed IAEA members that Iran has informed that it is planning to instal new cascades of IR-6 at Natanz, which are a series of centrifuges which are hooked together and spin uranium gas 10 times faster than first generation centrifuges to enrich uranium. As of February 2021, Iran had already been spinning a cascade of IR-6s at its underground facility at Fardo. Iran had also planned to instal one cascade at Natanz as well, and IAEA had verified its installation. The fear all round is that Iran is speeding up the process of enriching uranium to the weapons grade level, and taking Iran closer to its goal of making a bomb. Iran vehemently denies that its nuclear programme is for making the atomic bomb. But United Nations experts and Western intelligence services are convinced that Iran’s nuclear programme has military goals, and that it is meant for peaceful purposes.

The United Nations experts and Western intelligence agencies are convinced that the goal of the Iranian nuclear programme is to make the atomic bomb. That is, for a long time the West had imposed economic sanctions against Iran to deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme. But in 2015, the Western powers including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, signed a comprehensive deal by which Iran promised to curtail its nuclear programme in return for international trade benefits. But the mistrust between the two sides did not disappear completely, especially the United States. In 2018, American President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, suspecting that Iran while taking advantage of the removal of trade sanctions, was pursuing its nuclear weapons programme clandestinely.  President Joe Biden had restarted the talks. But the talks were making slow progress with both sides adopting tough positions. The war in Ukraine had put the talks on the back-burner as it were. Russia was demanding that it should not be left out of any deal with Iran, and that its war in Ukraine and the Western economic sanctions should not come in the way.

The tussle with Iran over its nuclear programme is not likely to end any time soon. The IAEA and the big powers want to strike a tough deal, and Iran on its part does not want to yield much ground. One of the big challenges that Iran faces is the fact that it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and therefore it is bound by the treaty obligation to not make the bomb. The countries that are most apprehensive of Iran’s nuclear programme are its Arab neighbours. The Gulf Arab states believe that Iran turning into an overwhelming military power will greatly disturb the regional power balance. The other country that is worried about Iran’s atomic bomb making ability is Israel. It fears that Iran’s atomic bomb is aimed against the Zionist state. Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.There is then a compelling need to reach a transparent deal between Iran and the others.  Iran’s nuclear programme if it is meant for civilian purposes should be allowed to be pursued freely. Iran on its part should voluntarily declare that it would not make the bomb. Iran should become an active partner in the global markets. The Western powers should not use Iran’s market access as a lever to force Iran to accept conditionalities. Any unfair imposition of conditionalities on Iran would only boomerang.

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