Grossi remarks spark suspicions about European-led extortion plan against Iran

December 19, 2020 - 22:4

TEHRAN – The UN nuclear chief’s remarks on the need to hammer out a new nuclear agreement with Iran, which is in line with what the top German diplomat called “nuclear agreement plus,” sparked suspicions in Iran that the European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – France, Germany and the UK (E3)- are not acting in good faith.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi recently told Reuters that there had been too many breaches for the Iran nuclear deal to simply fall back into place and that there is a need to reach a new agreement, a remark that elicited a quick response from Iran.

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

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

The UN atomic watchdog chief went further to say 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.”

Undaunted by the remarks, Iran was quick to hit back at Grossi. In a Twitter thread, Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran's ambassador and permanent representative to Vienna-based international organizations, said the IAEA had no authority to present any assessment on how Iran’s commitments under the nuclear deal are implemented and thus doing so was absolutely beyond the mandate of the Agency.

Gharibabadi also responded to Grossi’s call for a new agreement, underlining that “there would be no renegotiation on the Deal and in case of its revival, there is no necessity for a new document on the Agency’s role. It’s not needed to complicate the situation.”

Grossi’s offhand remarks fuelled speculation that the IAEA has been politically influenced by three European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to pave the way for a new agreement with Iran, the very same agreement that German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass called for.

“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 said in a recent interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel. He added, “We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran. I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this.”

Of course, Grossi has not called for the kind of agreement that includes Iran’s missile program and its influence in the region, but his efforts to technically justify the reopening of the JCPOA was perceived as a European-led plot to expand the 2015 nuclear deal.

This presumable plot seems to have prompted Gharibabadi to talk to Grossi in a bid to understand what the director-general meant with his proposed deal.

“The IAEA director-general did not say that the revival of the JCPOA required a new agreement and that the IAEA could not enter into these areas in principle, therefore, the Reuters headline was misleading and ill-intentioned,” Gharibabadi told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency, after holding talks with Grossi.

According to the Iranian diplomat, the director-general said in his interview with Reuters that in order to make the necessary arrangements for the reversibility of Iran's measures in the event of the revival of the JCPOA, a protocol, understanding, agreement or document within the Agency is needed.

“Today, I had a conversation with IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi on this issue and he said that he has not pointed to the need for a new agreement at all. The transcript of his interview in this regard is clear. He spoke about the Agency,” Gharibabadi said on Saturday.

The Iranian diplomat also expressed regret over the fact that media companies such as Reuters pursue their own political agenda.

“Media outlets such as Reuters pursue their own political agenda, thereby violating their professional rules,” Gharibabadi said.

It was not the first time that Reuters draws criticism from Iran. The British news agency has recently angered Iran by publishing an IAEA confidential report on Iran’s nuclear activities. The report said that Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz.

“In a letter dated 2 December 2020, Iran informed the Agency that the operator of the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz ‘intends to start installation of three cascades of IR-2m centrifuge machines’ at FEP,” the IAEA report to its member states said.

Gharibabadi strongly criticized the leakage of the report at the time, saying Tehran will soon legally pursue the matter.

The leakage of the IAEA report has raised suspicions that the E3 might have sought to exert pressure on Iran by helping leak the report to the press. These suspicions were further consolidated after the E3 issued a joint statement expressing concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities at Natanz based on the Reuters report.

“Iran’s recent announcement to the IAEA that it intends to install an additional three cascades of advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant in Natanz is contrary to the JCPOA and deeply worrying,” the E3 statement said.

The Europeans’ behavior toward Iran has remarkably changed after their favorite Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the U.S. presidential election in early November. They have morphed from calling for preserving the JCPOA to pushing for a new nuclear deal that put far more restrictions on Iran than the existing one.

But Iran has made it clear that it will not accept any new nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has recently said that the JCPOA is not renegotiable. The president also ruled out negotiations on Iran’s defensive missile program and its influence in the region, saying that the Americans had tried to add the missile issue to the JCPOA but Iran rejected the issue.

“The Americans were trying for months to add the missile issue (to the nuclear talks) and this was rejected. Trump was uninformed and did not know about the matter, but Mr. Biden is well aware of the details of the deal,” the Iranian president noted, adding, “I have not heard Biden say that we have to reach another agreement in order to return to the nuclear deal, that is what Trump says.”

During the Trump administration, the European countries sought to expand the JCPOA by trying to convince Iran into entering talks with the White House but Iran roundly rejected talks under sanctions pressure. Now that Trump has lost the presidential election, the Europeans also try to push Iran into giving more concessions even though they failed to honor their obligations under the very same deal they work to expand – the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.


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