Posts Tagged ‘IAEA’

Iran says EU economic proposal to save nuclear deal not enough

July 6, 2018

With US sanctions looming, European powers are looking to persuade Iran to remain in the 2015 agreement. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a compromise before November appeared unlikely.

Federica Mogherini and Javad Zarif (picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/A. Shcherbak)

Foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia are meeting in Vienna on Friday with their Iranian counterpart, to discuss an economic plan that could save the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and took 12 years to negotiate.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who chairs the meeting, hopes to persuade Iran to remain in the JCPOA with a package of incentives that includes European Investment Bank lending, a special measure to protect EU companies from US sanctions and encouraging EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank.

“We are here to listen to practical solutions, rather than slogans,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in the Austrian capital, signaling a willingness to study the options presented.

In May, President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the signature accord that his predecessor Barack Obama had signed, calling it “horrible” and “defective at its core.”

The White House’s retreat from the deal dismayed the remaining five countries, who swiftly signaled their continued support for the accord. But Washington reintroduced sanctions on Iran and threatened the remaining signatories with punitive measures if they engaged in trade and investment with Iran.

The Iranian government has strongly denied planning to build a nuclear bomb and has threatened to resume uranium enrichment for civilian purposes if the deal completely collapses.

Read more: Can Europe rescue Iran as Trump’s sanctions loom?

Rouhani: Current deal not good enough

In the wake of the US withdrawal, Iran’s rial currency has fallen, prices have risen and the country has been hit by street protests and strikes.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who signed the nuclear deal in 2015, has been under pressure at home from ultra-conservatives, who denounced his willingness to talk to the West and blamed him for the country’s ailing economy.

The Iranian president spoke to European leaders this week in support of saving the deal. But Rouhani told French President Emmanuel Macron that the current economic measures offered by Europe did not meet all of Tehran’s demands to salvage the nuclear deal, Iran’s IRNA state news agency reported.

Read more: Opinion: Khamenei’s empty threats over the Iran nuclear deal

Deal before November unlikely

Prior to heading to Vienna, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio that he thinks it unlikely that European powers would be able to put together a successful economic package to save the deal before November and asked Tehran to be more cooperative.

“They must stop permanently threatening to break their commitments to the nuclear deal,” Le Drian said.

“They must stop the threats so that we can find the solutions so that Iran can have the necessary economic compensations,” the foreign minister added.

Le Drian noted that Russia and China were working closely with the European signatories to find a suitable financial solution to US sanctions.

“We are trying to do it before sanctions are imposed at the start of August and then another set of sanctions in November. For the start August it seems a bit short, but we are trying to do it by November,” Le Drian said.

Read more: Opinion: Trump’s Iran nuclear deal exit dangerous for the world

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas lowered Iranian expectations prior to the Vienna meeting, saying that the five signatories would not be able to mitigate all the problems created by sanctions, but said that abandoning the deal would cause Tehran more harm to its economy.

“We will not be able completely counterbalance the effect of companies that are withdrawing from Iran because their US business is threatened by sanctions,” Maas said.

“We want to make it clear to Iran today that it will continue to  benefit economically from this agreement,” Maas told reporters

jcg/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)



Struggling to Save Nuclear Deal, Iran and World Powers Meet

July 6, 2018

Iran wants world powers to present measures guaranteeing oil revenue and investment into the country despite U.S. sanctions when ministers meet on Friday to save the 2015 nuclear deal, but European states will fall short of its demands, diplomats said.

Image may contain: one or more people

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani arrives at the Austrian Chancellery in Vienna, Austria July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the multinational deal in May under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Washington has since told countries they must stop buying the OPEC producer’s oil from Nov. 4 or face financial consequences.

Foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia meet with their Iranian counterpart in Vienna for the first time since Trump left the pact, but diplomats see limited scope for salvaging it.

“The objective is to save the deal. We’ve made some progress, including on safeguarding some crude sales, but it’s unlikely to meet Iranian expectations. It’s also not just about what the Europeans can do, but also how the Chinese, Russians, Indians, others can contribute,” said a senior European diplomat.

The pillars of the European Union’s strategy are: European Investment Bank lending, a special measure to shield EU companies from U.S. secondary sanctions and a Commission proposal that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties.

“The Iranians expect the others to say what we are going to do to keep the deal alive. We will have to see if it is going to be good enough for them,” an EU source added.

Describing the Friday meeting as important, Iranian officials have said that key for them is to ensure measures that guarantee oil exports do not halt, and that Tehran still has access to the SWIFT international bank payments messaging system.

During a visit to Europe this week President Hassan Rouhani warned that Iran could reduce its co-operation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog having already threatened Trump of the “consequences” of fresh sanctions against Iranian oil sales.

Rouhani was quoted by state media and on his website after calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as having told them he was disappointed with their package which did not go far enough.

“SWIFT is the key but Iran has to stay in at least until the end of the year to maintain divisions between the EU and U.S., keep some credibility and try and survive amidst forthcoming sanctions,” said Sanam Vakil, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a London-based international think tank.

While talks are expected to focus purely on the nuclear deal, they come amid increasing rhetoric from the Trump administration, which argues that Iran poses a serious security threat.

An Austria-based Iranian diplomat was among four people arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack on an Iranian opposition group in France last week.

The issue could be a distraction in the Vienna talks. Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot and has demanded the official be released without delay.

Any confirmation that Iranian authorities were behind the plot could make it politically difficult for European leaders to continue to back the nuclear deal.

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Vienna and Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels; Editing by James Dalgleish)


Austria angry at Germany over ‘enormous’ spy effort

June 17, 2018

Vienna has demanded an explanation from Berlin over reports that Germany’s BND agency spied on nearly 2,000 targets in Austria between 1999 and 2006. Austrian media said embassies were among the targets.

A general view shows an overcast sky in Vienna

Top Austrian officials have called on Germany to clarify reports that its BND spy agency snooped on high-profile targets including embassies, international organizations, Austrian ministers and banks based in the Austrian capital.

“The scale of the surveillance was enormous,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said of the spy effort, which reportedly involved around 2,000 targets and took place between 1999 and 2006.

Talking to reporters at a specially convened press conference in Vienna, Kurz said his government had already contacted German authorities and demanded more information on who was spied on and when the effort was ended.

“We want to have certainty that [the surveillance] ended, and if data were saved, our request is of course for it to be deleted,” Kurz said.

Read moreGermany’s NSA spying committee presents controversial report

Same old, same old?

Earlier this week, Austrian newspaper Der Standard and profil magazine reported that Germany’s BND was mostly snooping on diplomatic representatives in Vienna, including embassies of the US, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan, Israel and North Korea.

The agency also monitored phone numbers and other means of contact in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The BND was apparently also keeping tabs on dozens of private companies, including weapons manufacturers and other key exporters, but also Austrian ministries, Islamist movements and even the country’s news agency APA.

The two media outlets said the information was provided to them by a German source.

However, it was not immediately clear if the latest revelations were linked with a similar scandal in 2015, when the BND was accused of helping US intelligence agencies spy on several European countries, including Austria.

Spying among friends

Following revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed the US for its extensive spying on targets in Germany. “Spying among friends is not at all acceptable,” she famously said in the wake of the scandal.

The quote came back to haunt Merkel with the subsequent revelation of BND’s role in the spying.

On Saturday, however, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen seemed to echo the comments by saying that “spying among friendly states is not just unusual and unwanted, it’s unacceptable.”

In Germany, a parliamentary committee in charge of controlling the intelligence agencies said it was already looking into the allegations and attempting to determine how much of it was new information. It announced that the first results should be expected by the end of the coming week.

dj/kw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

Iran won’t cooperate fully with nuke inspectors until deal impasse resolved

June 7, 2018

Islamic Republic’s envoy to UN warns European powers it has a ‘few weeks’ to bolster nuclear accord

Times of Israel
June 7, 2018


Iran's nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, April, 9, 2007. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Iran on Wednesday upped the ante in its standoff with the United States and European powers over the 2015 nuclear deal from which the Trump administration withdrew last month, with its United Nations envoy warning it would not cooperate fully with nuclear inspectors until the future of the deal was resolved.

Reza Najafi also gave the European parties to the nuclear deal several weeks to salvage the accord.

“A few weeks means a few weeks, not a few months,” said Najafi, the Reuters news agency reported.

The Iranian envoy signaled that international inspectors from the IAEA would not receive expanded access to its facilities while the deal remained precarious, adding “no one should expect Iran to go to implement more voluntary measures.”

“But I should emphasize that it does not mean that right now Iran will restart any activities contrary to the (deal),” Najafi added. “These are only preparatory works.”

On Tuesday, Iran informed the UN nuclear watchdog that it would increase its nuclear enrichment capacity, yet stay within the provisions of the accord.

And on Wednesday, Iran’s nuclear chief inaugurated the Islamic Republic’s new nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz, which is geared toward producing centrifuges that will operate within the limits of the nuclear deal.

The EU, which is working to save the 2015 agreement, warned Tuesday that the Iranian announcement would not help build confidence in the Iranian program, but said it did not constitute a breach of the deal.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee presidential palace in Paris after a weekly cabinet meeting, on May 30, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / Ludovic MARIN)

Last month, the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the US, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany, saying it would reimpose sanctions on foreign companies working in the Islamic Republic by November.

The EU is trying to come up with ways to persuade Iran to stick with the deal by protecting the economic benefits it gained when tough sanctions were lifted in return for it halting the weapons-capable aspects of its nuclear program.


Iran completing advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment by July

June 7, 2018

A facility in Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant to build advanced centrifuges will be completed in a month, Iran’s nuclear chief said on Wednesday, as Tehran prepares to increase its uranium- enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses after U.S. exit.

“After the supreme leader’s order we prepared this center within 48 hours. We hope the facility to be completed in a month,” Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on Wednesday on state television.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday he had ordered preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear agreement with world powers collapsed.

Image result for Natanz nuclear plant, photos

The man who may have started it all: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013

The landmark agreement, which lifted crippling economic sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment program, has been facing its greatest diplomatic challenges in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of it.

European nations and others involved in the accord are now trying to salvage it, and many companies that rushed to make billion-dollar deals with Iran now are backing out for fear of being targeted by U.S. sanctions.

Natanz, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, includes underground facilities protected by some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offer protection from airstrikes.

Salehi’s choice of Natanz to offer his speech came as no surprise.

The facility long has been a point of contention between Iran and the West since its public disclosure by an Iranian exile group in 2002. While Tehran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Western nations have feared Natanz represented a means for Iran to enrich enough uranium to produce atomic weapons.

The Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation, caused thousands of centrifuges at Natanz to spin themselves to destruction at the height of the West’s fears over Iran’s program.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to store its excess centrifuges at Natanz under constant surveillance by the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran can use 5,060 older-model centrifuges at Natanz, but only to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent. Natanz was designed to have as many as 50,000 centrifuges operating there.

In Wednesday’s interview, Salehi said mass-production for new-generation centrifuges will take years to be fully operational. “Every new generation of centrifuges needs eight to 10 years for testing,” he said.

That low-level enrichment means the uranium can be used to fuel a civilian reactor but is far below the 90 percent needed to produce a weapon. Iran also can possess no more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of that uranium. That’s compared to the 100,000 kilograms (220,460 pounds) of higher-enriched uranium it once had.

Iran also this week told the IAEA it had a “tentative schedule to start production of UF6,” or uranium hexafluoride. Uranium hexafluoride gas is spun by centrifuges to make enriched uranium that can be used in nuclear weapons and atomic reactor fuel. That work is also restrained under the nuclear deal.

Earlier Wednesday, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Reza Najafi told journalists in Vienna that Iran had given European nations “a few weeks” to come up with ways to protect the deal from America’s pullout.

“These are the preparatory works for a possible scenario if in an unfortunate situation the (nuclear deal) fails then Iran can restart its activities without any limits,” Najafi said.

“What I can say is right now, the negotiations at the expert level are continuing and we hope that it could reach some conclusion,” he added. “Until then, we continue to exercise the most restraint but it is not (an) endless process.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Iran against restarting higher enrichment of uranium.

“It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines,” he said.

Iran’s uranium enrichment plans are close to the ‘red line’: French minister

June 6, 2018

Iran’s declaration that it could increase its uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart risks sailing close to the “red line”, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R), France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (2nd L), Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (R), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Britain's Foreign Secretary arrive for a meeting of EU/E3 with Iran at the EU headquarters in Brussels on May 15, 2018. 
(AFP PHOTO / POOL / Olivier Matthys)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R), France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (2nd L), Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (R), EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Britain’s Foreign Secretary arrive for a meeting of EU/E3 with Iran at the EU headquarters in Brussels on May 15, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Olivier Matthys)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said on Monday he had ordered preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear agreement collapsed after the United States withdrew from the deal last month.

It also informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog of “tentative” plans to produce the feedstock for centrifuges, which are the machines that enrich uranium.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and outdoor

“This initiative is unwelcome. It shows a sort of irritation,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. “It is always dangerous to flirt with the red lines, but the initiative taken … remains totally within the framework of the Vienna (nuclear) deal.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, to discuss Iran's nuclear deal, on May 15, 2018 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Thierry Monasse)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, to discuss Iran’s nuclear deal, on May 15, 2018 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Thierry Monasse)

Tensions between Iran and the West have surged since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran last month, calling it deeply flawed and reimposing unilateral sanctions.

European powers are scrambling to save the deal – under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for a lifting of international sanctions – as they regard it as the best chance to stop Tehran developing an atomic bomb.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wants the European Union to do more to save the nuclear deal after the exit of the US. (AFP)

However, they have warned Iran that if it were not to abide by the terms of the deal, then they would also be forced to pull out and reimpose sanctions as Washington has done.

“If they go to a higher level then yes the agreement would be violated, but they need to realize that if they do then they will expose themselves to new sanctions and the Europeans will not remain passive.”

Le Drian, who said Iran was for now still abiding by its commitments, was speaking a day after Israel’s leader urged France to turn its attention to tackling Iran’s “regional aggression”, saying he no longer needed to convince Paris to quit a 2015 nuclear deal between various world powers with Tehran as economic pressure would kill it anyway.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, John Irish and Yann Le Guernigou; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg




    Image may contain: outdoor
An Iranian made ballistic missile is launched from Yemen by Houti rebels into Saudi Arabia

Iran steps up pressure on uranium enrichment after US pullout

June 5, 2018

Iran said Tuesday it has launched a plan to boost uranium enrichment capacity with new centrifuges, raising the pressure on European diplomats scrambling to rescue the crumbling nuclear deal after Washington pulled out.

“If conditions allow, maybe tomorrow night at Natanz, we can announce the opening of the centre for production of new centrifuges,” said Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, according to conservative news agency Fars.

“What we are doing does not violate the (2015 nuclear) agreement,” he said, adding that a letter was submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “yesterday regarding the start of certain activities”.

A nuclear facility in south of Iran (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Khamenei said on Monday that Iran ‘will not tolerate being under sanctions, while limited in the nuclear field’ [File: AP]

He specified this was just the start of the production process and “does not mean that we will start assembling the centrifuges”.

Under the 2015 nuclear agreement that Iran signed with world powers, it can build and test parts for advanced centrifuges, but specific restrictions exist on what technology can be researched and in what quantity within the first decade of the deal.

Salehi also emphasised that these moves “do not mean the negotiations (with Europe) have failed.”

European governments have been trying to salvage the nuclear deal ever since the United States announced its withdrawal last month and said it would reimpose sanctions on foreign companies working in the Islamic republic by November.

The remaining parties — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have vowed to stay in the accord but many of their companies have already started to wind down Iranian operations.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the Europeans that “Iran will never tolerate both suffering from sanctions and nuclear restrictions” and called for preparations to speed up uranium enrichment.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for civilian uses only, but opponents in the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia accuse it of seeking to build an atomic bomb.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted swiftly to Salehi’s announcement, charging that the Islamic republic’s aim was “unlimited enrichment of uranium to create an arsenal of nuclear bombs” to destroy his country.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran is permitted to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent.

It has previously stated it could “within days” return to enrichment of 20 percent — still within the limits of civilian use but allowing for a much quicker jump to military-grade levels of 80-90 percent.

– Businesses leaving –

Keen to preserve the nuclear deal — with which Iran has so far been fully compliant according to international inspectors — European governments are working on measures to protect their businesses from US sanctions.

But Iran had already been denied much of the economic benefits it had hoped for from the deal, thanks to the continued reluctance of international banks to facilitate trade and a raft of non-nuclear US sanctions that were never lifted.

With the US pulling out of the deal entirely, several large firms have said it will be impossible to continue operating in Iran except in the unlikely scenario that they win bulletproof exemptions from Washington.

France’s PSA, which manufactures Peugeot and Citroen cars, on Monday became the latest to announce its plans to pull out of Iran, where it sold nearly 445,000 cars last year.

French energy giant Total is also preparing its departure from a $4.8-billion gas project in Iran, with its CEO saying last week that the chances of a US exemption were “very slim”.

by Marc Jourdier


See also:

Iran tells UN it will boost uranium enrichment capacity

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

May 26, 2018

‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News — US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)

Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating… to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.”

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.

Arab News


Iran asks Europe what it can offer to keep it in the nuclear deal after U.S. pullout

May 25, 2018

Secretary General of the European Union External Action Service Helga Schmid and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano meet to discuss Iran’s nuclear deal, in Vienna on Friday. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
May 25 at 9:53 AM

Iran will decide within weeks whether to stay in a faltering deal to restrain its nuclear program, pressing Europe to compensate for President Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions, a senior Iranian official said Friday.

The caution came ahead of the first talks among the remaining parties to the landmark 2015 deal since the United States pulled out earlier this month. The negotiations in Vienna, which were called by Iran, are aimed at salvaging the deal.

The talks came a day after an official report declared Iran to still be compliant with the stringent controls on its nuclear program.

Iran has long declared that its nuclear program is limited to the peaceful generation of nuclear energy and production of medical isotopes. If it were to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and seek nuclear weapons, it could spark an arms race in the already volatile Middle East.

The United States and Israel have also warned that an Iranian nuclear weapons program would be countered with force.

“We have not decided yet to stay in the deal,” said the Iranian official, who briefed a small group of reporters under ground rules of anonymity. The official said that Iranian hard-line factions that always opposed the nuclear deal are now pushing to pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that forbids the development of nuclear weapons.

One possibility if Iran withdraws from the deal would be a return to the status quo before 2015, the official said: an intensified uranium-enrichment program that the Iranian government says is for peaceful civilian use, and economic relations with the world that are hobbled by U.S. sanctions.

“Another solution that some promote is for Iran to go out of NPT or at least reconsider and revisit our nuclear doctrine,” the official said.

Tehran wants a full package of proposals from Europe by the end of May, after which leaders will decide whether to stay in the agreement, the official said. The aim is to see whether Europe can create enough paths to protect private investment in Iran so that Tehran still feels it is receiving concrete economic benefits from the deal.

“We were always told there is a Plan B,” the official said. “But I’m sorry to say we haven’t seen the Plan B yet.”

Friday’s meeting in Vienna of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) committee included Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. It was the first such meeting at which the United States was not present.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week vowed to destroy Iran’s economy and “crush” its operatives and proxies around the world, offering a hard-line vision that many analysts said seemed intended to provoke Tehran.

Europe’s urgent, down-to-the-wire effort to preserve the deal has the effect of pushing America’s allies to work with its traditional adversaries to thwart White House actions. A similar realignment may be underway on the Korean Peninsula, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in tries to salvage a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Trump abruptly canceled it this week.

Europeans have been working on a suite of proposals, including making it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in Iran, sheltering payments for oil and gas from U.S. sanctions and ordering European businesses to disregard the new U.S. measures. But European diplomats involved in the efforts acknowledge uncertainty about whether the plans are enough to salvage the economic benefits of the deal.

The Iranian official dismissed any further attempt to work with the United States, saying that the experience of making a deal with one administration only to have it nullified by its successor made new talks impossible.

The official also dismissed European attempts to link further talks on nuclear issues to Iran’s ballistic missile program and its disruptive role in the Middle East. Due to political pressures inside Iran, linking the issues was likely to further undermine the existing deal and make agreement on other issues even harder, the official said.

Iran nuclear deal signatories meet for first time since US pullout

May 25, 2018

Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal meet with the Islamic republic in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement two weeks after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal.

For the first time since the deal came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany will gather — at Iran’s request — without the United States, which pulled out on May 8.

US President Donald Trump has long trashed the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it did not do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

He also said it did not go far enough in restricting Iran’s ballistic missile programme, or its intervention in regional conflicts from Yemen to Iraq and Syria.

Since the US’s pull out, the other signatories have since embarked on a diplomatic marathon to try to keep the agreement afloat.

Image may contain: 1 person
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives at the EU council in Brussels, Belgium May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

According to a report seen by AFP Thursday, an International Atomic Energy Agency report shows Iran is still abiding by the deal’s key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions.

The IAEA, however, is “encouraging (Iran) to go above and beyond the requirements” of the deal in order to boost confidence, said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the IAEA is based.

Iran said it is waiting for concrete measures from the EU nations before it decides whether the deal can be saved, while threatening to restart its uranium enrichment programme at an “industrial level” if not.

The five signatories still committed to the agreement have said they want Iran to stay in the deal, with the European countries saying they would not rule out further talks with the Islamic Republic on an expanded text.

However, several Iranian officials warned that the Vienna meeting would be devoted to the existing agreement only, implying that there was no question of broadening the discussions.