By M.A. Saki

Serious doubts about Grossi’s intentions 

December 18, 2020 - 20:39

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the Atomic Energy Agency, has said reviving Iran’s nuclear deal under U.S. President-elect Joe Biden would require striking a new agreement setting out how Iran’s reduction of commitments should be reversed.

Iran has removed some of the nuclear deal’s limits in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and the reimposition of sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the 2015 the deal.

Iran did this after waiting for a full year. Iran removed limits gradually – at bi-monthly times. It even insisted that if the other remaining members of the deal – Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China – compensate Iran for the sanctions it will immediately reverse its decisions.

However, the remaining members, especially the European trio (E3), did not honor their commitments. Even the INSTEX - the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges - that the E3 announced after a long time proved to be a tiger paper.

Also, Trump violated the legally-binding deal while the IAEA, before Grossi took over as the UN body’s director, was repeatedly confirming Iran’s full compliance with the terms of the deal. 

In an interview with Reuters, Grossi said there had been too many breaches for the agreement to simply fall back into place.

“I cannot imagine that they are going simply to say, ‘We are back to square one’ because square one is no longer there,” Grossi said at IAEA headquarters.

“There is more (nuclear) material, ... there is more activity, there are more centrifuges, and more are being announced. So what happens with all this? This is the question for them at the political level to decide,” said Grossi, an Argentine who took office as IAEA director general a year ago.

Asked if that meant there would have to be a ‘deal within the deal’, he said: “Oh yes, oh yes. Undoubtedly.

“It is clear that there will have to be a protocol or an agreement or an understanding or some ancillary document which will stipulate clearly what we do,” he said.

Grossi knows very well that the IAEA’s task is to only police countries’ compliance with the nuclear safeguards agreements including no diversion from the NPT and has no legal authority to air views about such agreements. Such issues fall outside the purview of the IAEA.

According to the JCPOA, the IAEA is only being tasked to monitor Iran’s compliance to the deal.
These remarks are made as Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has said the United States will rejoin the deal “if Iran resumes strict compliance” with the agreement.

Such unhelpful statements have also been made by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who has tried to link the implementation of the nuclear agreement with Iran’s defensive missile program. 

In a recent interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Maas said, “A return to the previous agreement will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of ‘nuclear agreement plus,’ which is also in our interest. We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region. Iran also needs to play a different role in the region.” 

Maas added, “I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this.”

Such remarks, first by Maas and this time in another way by Grossi, are not only unconstructive by even may prove destructive. Neither Grossi nor Maas were involved in nearly 13 years of negotiations, including two years of laborious and intensive talks, that produced the nuclear deal – the JCPOA – otherwise they would have thought twice before raising new issues. 

Grossi has said Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is more than 2.4 tons, 12 times the cap set by the deal, though still far below the more than eight tons Iran had before signing it. 

According to the JCPOA, Iran should not have kept more than 300 kilograms of uranium enriched about 3.67%. Grossi must answer who prevented the sale of the uranium that is now eight times more. 

If now Iran is enriching uranium up to 4.5% purity, technically it can be easily reduced to 3.67%. Iran can also sell its extra uranium as it did before based on the agreement.

There is serious doubt about the intention of Grossi in making such remarks. Most probably it is because of his unprofessional view toward Iran’s nuclear program. Now one can understand why U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is notoriously famous for his anti-Iran policies, backed his candidacy for the IAEA chief against Romanian diplomat Cornel Feruta, who served as the Agency’s acting director-general after the sudden death of Yukiya Amano.

Some American voices have also suggested that the incoming Biden administration should try to make use of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration as leverage to get concessions from Iran before entering the deal. Among those who have suggested such an approach is Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, who in an op-ed dated November 29 said, “If I had one piece of advice for him (Biden), it would be this: This is not the Middle East you left four years ago.”

What Grossi, Maas, Freedman, and others are suggesting is somehow what Trump and his inner circle were seeking to achieve under the “maximum pressure” policy against Iran but their efforts ended in failure.
Grossi made such a suggestion with the knowledge that that officials in Tehran have been vehemently rejecting any renegotiation of the JCPOA. 

China and Russia have also opposed to renegotiating the JCPOA.

Writing an article in Responsible Statecraft on December 10 under the title of “Why using Trump’s Iran sanctions as ‘leverage’ won’t work,” former U.S. intelligence officer Paul Pillar warned that punishing Iran “does not create leverage”. Pillar said, “That’s what the Trump administration has done by reneging on its obligations under the JCPOA, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, even though Iran was fully complying with its own obligations.” 

The former CIA officer added, “The suggestions regarding sanctions and leverage on Iran, however, are contrary both to the way international influence works in general and to the specific circumstances involving Iran.”

There is serious doubt about the intention of Grossi and others about the way to reactivate the JCPOA. Such remarks are probably made to make the matters complicated and make it impossible for Biden to reenter the deal so that four years of his presidency passes without any tangible result.

Testing something that its result in four years of the Trump presidency has proven futile is mere stupidity. 

It was better for Maas to talk about the $200 billion loss to the Iranian economy because of the illegal sanctions and that Grossi only focus on the IAEA’s policing responsibilities. There are others such as Israel’s Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s MBS who will not remain idle by to create serious hurdles in the way.

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