Iran Nuclear Program In Focus As US, Allies Search For Options

With the dust still settling after the United States and Israel’s elections, next week could spark a new debate in Iran’s nuclear program.

The November 24-26 meeting of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will consider a new decision to ban Tehran in terms of banning agency inspectors. Reports emerged on Friday that the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, surrounding the 35 member states of the board, called the decision “necessary and urgent” for Iran to deal with the crisis in the organization.

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The IAEA’s concerns are twofold. First, as indicated by this decision, Tehran has not satisfied the IAEA on the results of the uranium found in the sites used before the 2003 nuclear test. There is little hope of success in meetings with Iranian officials scheduled for the end of this month.

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Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, on Thursday criticized Iran for “foot dragging.” Tehran has asked the IAEA to drop questions about the uranium process to help negotiations, which have been closed, to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which the US abandoned in 2018.

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US State Department spokesman Ned Price

The second major area of ​​concern of the organization is the reduction of Iran from February 2021 IAEA access to the nuclear program, which is now more required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty than encouraged by the JCPOA.

This decline, combined with the problem of uranium exploration, has occurred led the director of the organization Rafael Mariano Grossi to warn he may no longer be able to guarantee the peace of Iran’s nuclear program. The report that was published on Thursday to the member countries of the IAEA said that “while the situation continues such uncertainty is increasing.”

The agency monitors Iran’s uranium stockpile, which it currently says is 3,674kg, above the 267kg JCPOA cap, including 62kg enriched to 60 percent, about 90 percent of ‘weapons.’ But Iran’s removal of nuclear reactors from factories that make centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, has prevented the agency from judging the entire program. Although acquiring such factories is not necessary according to Iran’s commitments to the NPT, knowing the number and type of centrifuges that Iran has ready and waiting is important to see how quickly the program can grow.

While Price said Thursday the U.S. is negotiating with “our European partners,” the options for cooperation appear limited. The IAEA issued a decision in June to restrict Iran’s supply of uranium, and it is unclear what the new decision will achieve. The document, as reported by Reuters on Friday, says Iran must “take steps to meet its obligations and …[and the] taking samples…”

Unlike 2006, when The IAEA referred Iran to the United Nations Security Council on its atomic program, Russia and China would not back down. Both have UNSC vetoes and consider the US responsible for the termination of the JCPOA.

Although the decision to renew the JCPOA is with President Joe Biden, the opponents of the JCPOA in the US may be emboldened away from the Democrats in the elections of November 8, even control of the House of Representatives and the Senate is not clear.

‘Being smart’

The return to power in Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu after the November 1 Knesset elections is another challenge. Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid has built a good relationship with Biden’s administration despite criticizing efforts to revive the JCPOA, which Netanyahu has already identified with President Donald Trump. The Minister of Defense is leaving Benny Gantz on Wednesday spoke about the work done and the administration coming out of preparations for war on Iran, saying that Netanyahu has now “made a decision.”

While the crisis in Ukraine, the rise of internal protests in Iran, and the growing ties between Tehran and Moscow have all brought the US closer to the three European signatories of the JCPOA – France, Germany, and the UK – Biden’s alternatives seem limited.

Given the “dangerous amount of Iranian weapons in Russia,” Price said on Thursday the US “will continue to vigorously enforce all US sanctions on Russia’s arms trade with Iran.” He acknowledged that while Washington was “looking at all the right tools” in dealing with Iran, it was already “very formal, to say the least…

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