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Iran said on Tuesday it had abandoned another key tenet of the nuclear deal that President Joe Biden is trying to resuscitate after his predecessor backed down from the landmark deal to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons nuclear. The move has increased pressure on Washington as the two countries engage in a chicken set on case.

By announcing the implementation of a law formally suspending part, but not all, of cooperation with nuclear inspectors of the World Nuclear Oversight Agency, Iran seemed to at least leave a little trouble place for negotiations with the White House.

“The law entered into force this morning,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday, apparently facing a threat enshrined in Iranian law last year in retaliation for the withdrawal of former President Donald Trump’s 2015 nuclear deal.

The law drafted by the Iranian parliament declared that unless a series of harsh unilateral sanctions imposed by the Trump administration following its 2018 withdrawal were repealed on February 23, Tehran would cease to adhere to the so-called additional protocols, a secret package of additional nuclear deal-related measures that allow UN inspectors to stay in the country to perform “snap” inspections at Iranian sites with very little warning. The protocols also gave the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to video from cameras installed at various Iranian nuclear facilities.

As the deadline loomed over the weekend, the IAEA chief visited Tehran and struck another secret deal with the Iranian government, which the global nuclear watchdog said would guarantee the less to its inspectors to stay in the country.

Iran takes cautious new nuclear pact step as Biden tries to open talks
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi (right) in Tehran on February 21, 2021.

STR / AFP / Getty


Under the new deal, however, Iran said it would stop handing video from cameras of its nuclear facilities to the IAEA and would only provide it if US sanctions were lifted within three months. Confidential arrangements would also allow some inspections to continue, with constraints neither party chose to disclose.

On Tuesday, Zarif specifically said that Iran would no longer share surveillance video of its nuclear facilities with the UN agency, as stipulated in the law requiring an end to compliance with additional protocols. But that’s all he said.

Flexibility?

The secret deal reached over the weekend with the IAEA sparked an angry backlash on Monday from die-hard Iranian lawmakers, who criticized it as a surrender and even referred the government to the country’s justice system for investigating what they said was illegal abandonment of the law. .

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei exerted even more pressure on Monday, warning his country could take the 2015 deal one step further by enriching uranium to 60 percent purity.

But despite stiff resistance in parliament and persistent threats from the supreme leader, the deal reached on Sunday with the IAEA would not have been finalized by the Iranian government without the approval of Khamenei himself. And while Zarif announced that the law was being implemented on Tuesday, he did not say to what extent it would be enforced.

Other than the bold statement that it “was going to go into effect” and the note that the video would not be handed over (which is in line with the terms agreed this weekend with the IAEA), there was nothing to indicate that the inspectors of IAEA were forced to leave the country or abruptly stop their inspection work.

Zarif also pointed out in a tweet that whatever new limits imposed on IAEA inspectors are reversible.

In their steady and gradual march away from the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal since Trump’s withdrawal, Iranian officials have always stressed that all actions are quickly and easily reversible – as soon as the White House lifts the sanctions imposed by the previous one. American leader.

Even as he released his latest threat on Monday, Khamenei reiterated Iran’s official position that the country is prohibited under Islamic principles from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has always insisted that its nuclear program is to produce energy and for medical research, not to build an atomic bomb.


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The United States and its close allies in the Middle East don’t believe it, and every White House for years, including the White House, has vowed never to let Iran even acquire the ability to build such a weapon.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month that US intelligence agencies believe it will take Iran a few months to produce enough highly enriched nuclear material to develop a weapon if it chooses to follow suit. this way. Blinken noted, however, that “if Iran continues to lift some of these constraints imposed by the [2015 nuclear] okay, that might take a few weeks. “

What happens next?

President Biden has made it clear that he is ready to join the nuclear deal, but he said Iran must first comply with its terms. Iran maintains that it was the United States that first withdrew from the international agreement, so it must get back to it first.

With both sides drawing these lines in the sand, it may seem that there is no obvious way out of the current impasse.

But the ambiguity of Iran’s predetermined steps to move away from the pact this week – unless it goes any further and initiates IAEA inspectors in the coming days – must be seen against the backdrop of recent moves. of the Biden administration indicating a willingness to open a dialogue with the Iranians.

On a very specific issue, the fate of American prisoners held in Iran, White House officials confirmed to CBS News that a discussion already in progress through intermediaries.


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Mr. Biden’s State Department also formally repealed notifications sent by the Trump administration to the UN stating that all international sanctions against Iran lifted under the nuclear deal had “ restored ”. The White House has also dropped travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats who work at the UN in New York.

Iran has greeted the openings with caution. Iranian cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Tuesday that while Iranian leaders “see this as putting America on a constructive path, we see [the steps] as extremely insufficient. ”

As for direct talks on the nuclear program, Zarif said Iran was “evaluating the idea of ​​an informal meeting” with the other parties to the 2015 deal, “to which America is invited as non-member “.

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