Negotiations to try to save the Iran nuclear deal will not resume until August, when the new president of the Persian country takes office, and Tehran is indebted to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for its new capabilities. in the area.
As a result, it will only be a month before the agency’s chief executive, Rafael Grossi, reports on the case, which could lead to both a resumption of talks and a new round of negotiations. sanctions against the Iranians and even more tension in the Persian Gulf.
“We tried to strike up a conversation in March, but the election of the new government interrupted the process. I don’t know if when we start again it will be based on what was already there or if they will change. The prerogative is theirs, ”Grossi, 60, told La feuille.
Visiting Brazil, the Argentine, who since December 2019 is considered the most active of the six directors general that the IAEA has had in nearly 64 years, spoke of the state of complex negotiations to relaunch the agreement reached in 2015.
It aimed to prevent the Ayatollah regime from developing the bomb, in return for ending economic sanctions against the country. In 2018, the main guarantor of the arrangement, the United States, left the agreement.
Then-President Donald Trump criticized the terms of the JCPOA (acronym for Joint Global Action Plan), believing that Iran had a free hand to buy time to develop its nuclear weapons.
In addition, in line with Israel, the American wanted the inclusion of Iran’s sophisticated ballistic missile program in the checklist.
With the return to power of the Democrats who sponsored the 2015 accord this year, the situation has changed. “Joe Biden kept his promise,” Grossi said at a São Paulo hotel on Saturday night (17).
In this case, try to resume the agreement, signed when the current president was vice-president. It is not easy: although the deal is still supported by other powers, such as the European Union and Russia, the Iranians consider it null without the United States and seek to expand their nuclear capabilities.
Another turning point was the assassination in late 2020 of one of its top nuclear scientists, something attributed to Israel. The mood is one of mutual mistrust, and the election of die-hard conservative Ebrahim Raisi last month portends further difficulties to come, although Grossi does not enter the political arena.
“It’s a different situation. There are new ultracentrifuges, greater production of nuclear materials, new activities with metallic uranium, which have special significance for their possible uses,” Grossi said, referring to the fact. that the material can be used in the core. of an atomic bomb.
He managed to buy time earlier this year and managed to send two inspection teams to Iranian nuclear sites. In two of them he found traces of uranium that shouldn’t have been there, in addition to the aforementioned metallic uranium – a disk of the material is missing.
“It’s a set of questions, and Iran must answer them,” said the diplomat. In September, he will have to report to the agency’s governing body, which in turn informs the UN (United Nations), the entity to which he reports.
“We are in a situation which is not comfortable. I have already sent informal messages. But I think it is possible to find a solution if Iran engages,” said Grossi.
According to him, if there is clarification of the outstanding points, there would already be “a very positive effect”. “If they start, so much the better. So far nothing, just a bit of piecemeal information. They basically wanted us to do an OK on points. Which I won’t do until my experts can tell. ‘there is nothing to worry about. “
“It is a two-step process. One concerns us, it is the nuclear part. What to do with surplus materials, which can be sent to other countries, or new centrifuges, which can be sealed or destroyed. It is not easy, but it is doable, “he said.
“On the other hand, there is the political issue, which has nothing to do with the agency, the sanctions against Iran. What weighs more is the political question, how far the United States can go. this.”
Is the Iranian bomb then a matter of time? “The agency does not judge intentions. We need to see what the situation is and that there is no diversion of nuclear material or proliferation situations. If we don’t have information, we inform the UN and the states will decide what to do. agency can not go into politicization. “, said.
He declares “there is this point of view that [Raisi] it is more orthodox. “” I must be totally open-minded and equanimous, without prejudices. I’m waiting to sit down with them, ”he said.
In Brazil since last week, Grossi is participating this Monday (19) in the event marking the 30th anniversary of the Abacc (Brazil-Argentina Agreement on Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials), which ended the competition between the two neighbors for the bomb.
In line with what he told Folha in an interview last August, Grossi said the agreement was very important, but that we must move forward within the normative framework of safeguards.
“The world of 2021 is not the same as in 1991, it is obvious. They were countries that were emerging from a very iconoclastic situation, with little transparency. It was historic because of that” , he said.
“But it was a very minimalist step in terms of guarantees. Then Argentina, and later Brazil, signed the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). But it left a lot of empty spaces, as we said. ‘learned in Iraq, then we came to Protocols,’ he says.
The protocols establish more detailed mutual inspection regimes for their members, and Brazil has so far not agreed to participate for fear of losing power over its uranium enrichment ultracentrifuge technology.
With a lot of diplomatic talent, Grossi asked Brazil to sign the protocols, drawn up in 1997 and today with 137 adhering countries.
Affirming that he could not analyze the Brazilian political decision, because it is sovereign, he affirms that “Brazil and Argentina must have a safeguards regime adapted to the size and importance of their nuclear programs, which are very sophisticated “.
Buenos Aires has adhered to the protocols. But Grossi says he has an “excellent impression” of the Brazilian authorities he visited in terms of transparency.
“I had a great tour of the Navy’s nuclear submarine program. There is a great spirit of dialogue and transparency. A project like this may worry some, and the management of the Navy and the Ministry of Mines and Energy is aware that transparency is important to achieve a good port, “he said.
This week, he will also discuss the issue with the Brazilian authorities, including Chancellor Carlos França. “The agency does not dictate. We can evolve through a systematic dialogue, without imposition,” he said.
He claims to have received answers to all his questions and rejects the idea of a repeat of a crisis like the one of the 2000s, when Brazil banned IAEA inspectors. “I’ve heard a lot of consistency in all the places I’ve visited. It’s not easy to find that, the nuclear industry is very heterogeneous,” he said.
Finally, he welcomed the creation of the National Nuclear Safety Authority, through an interim measure taken in May. It will assume the regulatory role of the sector, keeping research and production under the aegis of the CNEN (National Commission for Nuclear Energy).
“The Cnen is prepared. Having a truly independent regulator is essential, a country like Brazil could not do without it. Brazil took a long time. In Argentina, the process was traumatic because you are removing people, resources and functions of an institution, “he said.