Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), returned empty-handed from Tehran. “The discussions were constructive but we could not reach an agreement despite all my efforts”, he declared, Wednesday, November 24, on the first day of a board of governors of the UN body in Vienna.
No access to the Karaj factory
The day before, the head of the IAEA had met in the Iranian capital the head of the Iranian organization of atomic energy (OIEA), Mohammad Eslami, and the head of diplomacy, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Nothing is therefore settled in the dispute between the agency and Iran.
→ ANALYSIS. Iranian nuclear power: Tehran returns to negotiations
Since February 2021, Tehran has persisted in obstructing the access of IAEA inspectors to surveillance equipment installed at its nuclear sites. And the agency still couldn’t get into the Karaj factory where Iran assembles centrifuges. “We are approaching the point where I will no longer be able to guarantee the continuity of knowledge” on the Iranian nuclear program, underlines Rafael Grossi. Another outstanding issue: the situation of four undeclared sites, where nuclear material has been detected.
Sharp increase in enriched uranium stock
The Board of Governors is also due to debate, Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 November, the latest IAEA report showing a clear increase in the stock of highly enriched uranium by Tehran. The amount of accumulated uranium now exceeds by more than twelve times the limit authorized by the 2015 agreement. Above all, Iran has exceeded the enrichment rate set by the agreement: it now has 113.8 kg of uranium enriched to 20% and 17.7 kg of uranium enriched to 60%, not far from the 90% needed to make a bomb.
Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA is part of a very clear hardening of the Iranian posture, five days before the resumption of negotiations. After five months of suspension, the negotiators of the great powers and Iran must meet, Monday, November 29, in Vienna, to try to save the agreement of 2015. This compromise provides for a control of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The United States will not stay “Arms crossed” if Iran does not negotiate in good faith and continues to develop this program, warned, Wednesday, November 24, the American envoy Rob Malley. “The options available to America are, you know, known to all”, he added, again letting the threat of military action hover.