Iran: No nuclear deal until IAEA closes investigations

Tehran denies making concessions on probes * Borrell says deal signatories waiting on US response

 AHEAD OF a meeting at the State Department last October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi. It seems the diplomatic path is blocked and unlikely to provide the breakthrough the Biden administration sought, says the writer. (photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)
AHEAD OF a meeting at the State Department last October, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi. It seems the diplomatic path is blocked and unlikely to provide the breakthrough the Biden administration sought, says the writer.
(photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/REUTERS)

A nuclear deal with Iran will not be implemented as long as the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to investigate undeclared nuclear sites, a spokesman for the Islamic Republic’s negotiating team said Tuesday.

No deal will be implemented before the IAEA Board of Governors PERMANENTLY closes the false accusations file,” Seyed Mohammad Marandi tweeted.

“Iran’s nuclear program will not be dismantled,” he also wrote, even though that was not reported to be part of the deal.

Iran and the nuclear deal

The Iranian representative made the statement in response to a Reuters report that Iran had dropped its demand to close the probe. Iran did not comment on the IAEA investigation in its response to the latest draft of the nuclear deal, which it sent to the EU last week.

 European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS) European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Austria June 20, 2021 (credit: REUTERS)

“Of course, this doesn’t mean Iran won’t cooperate to help close the case,” Marandi said in a subsequent tweet.

A day earlier, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said his agency would not end the investigation into traces of enriched uranium found in undeclared locations until Iran cooperates.

“So far, Iran has not given us the technically credible explanations that we need to explain the origin of many traces of uranium; the presence of equipment at places,” he told CNN.

“Let us have an explanation,” Grossi said. “If there was nuclear material there, where is it now? If there was equipment there, where is it now?”

Iran’s Nour News, which is tied to the Supreme National Security Council, tweeted: “The continued adoption of political approaches by the [director-general] of IAEA in a situation [in which] Western officials are optimistic about reaching an agreement shows that Raphael Grossi is still the main obstacle to the finalization of Vienna Talks, along with the Zionist regime.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “Iran needs to answer the IAEA’s questions... our position is not going to change.”

He also confirmed that Iran had dropped its demand that the State Department remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

Marandi on Tuesday tweeted he has “said for MONTHS, removing the Guards from the FTO is not a precondition.”

However, Iran held up negotiations for more than five months in response to Washington’s refusal to lift the terrorist designation.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Tuesday said most countries involved in nuclear talks with Iran support the EU’s proposal

“Most of them agree, but I still don’t have the answer from the United States, who I understand have to discuss it, and we expect during this week to receive an answer,” he said in an interview with Spain’s national broadcaster TVE.

Borrell on Monday said he considered Tehran’s answer to be “reasonable.”

Russia’s top negotiator, Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted: “It would be great if the US and Iran successfully overcome their last differences as soon as possible. It is high time to conclude the agreement on restoration of the JCPOA without any further delay.”

The US continued its “internal consultations,” as Price put it, and discussion with its allies, including Israel, ahead of providing a response to Iran’s comments provided last week on the EU’s “final” text of a nuclear deal.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata was expected to meet with his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, on Tuesday, after the meeting was postponed by a day.

Senior Israeli officials also held discussions with the five other signatories to the Iran deal: Russia, China, France, Germany and the UK.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel “will do all that we can to influence the agreement.”

Israel “is in contact with our American partners and countries in the region who are no less threatened by Iran,” he added.

“We must remember, this is not an agreement between us and the Iranians,” Gantz said at an Israel Democracy Institute event. “Israel is not a side to this agreement and will know how to protect itself and maintain its freedom of action as necessary.”

Gantz is expected to meet with CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla in Florida on Thursday and Sullivan in Washington on Friday, before traveling to Japan.

Gantz also said Israel was working on its ability to defend itself and ensure its security.

Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on US President Joe Biden "to refrain, even now at this last minute, from signing the agreement with Iran.

"This agreement will send approximately a quarter of a trillion dollars to the Iranian terror administration's pocket and to its regional proxies, and will enable Iran to develop, install and operate centrifuges, with almost no restrictions, in a mere two years," Bennett tweeted. "Throughout the past year, even when it was very close, we successfully convinced our White House counterparts not to give in to Iranian demands. I hope this will remain the case."

According to a very senior diplomatic source, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s message, as well as Hulata’s, in conversations with foreign interlocutors has been that “the EU sent Iran a final offer, which does not comport with the principles to which the Americans committed, and established that the offer was ‘take it or leave it.’ Iran refuses the offer, and therefore the time has come to get up and go. Anything else sends a message of weakness.”

Now is the time to discuss what to do moving forward to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the source said last week.

Israel, as everyone knows, is not obligated by anything and will do what it needs to stop a nuclear Iran and prevent Iran from using its terrorist proxies in the region,” the source added.

In addition to dropping the IAEA probe, Iran continued to demand guarantees from the US that future presidents will not leave the deal as Donald Trump did in 2018, which is a commitment that US President Joe Biden cannot legally make, and that Western corporations will do business with the Islamic Republic, which is something that free-market economies cannot promise.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action lifted sanctions on Iran, allowing the flow of billions of dollars into its economy, in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program. These limitations would expire over time, ending in 2030, with restrictions on the manufacture of advanced centrifuges expiring next year. The deal does not address Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, proxy warfare, ballistic-missile program or other malign actions.

The Trump administration left the deal in 2018, opting for more sanctions instead. The Biden administration began negotiating a return to the JCPOA early last year.

The renewed deal, as drafted by the EU, does not extend the JCPOA’s nonproliferation benefits, while offering the same sanctions relief as in 2015.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.