The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said earlier on Thursday that Iran would “essentially” remove all cameras installed under the 2015 nuclear deal, after the country was censored earlier this week by the IAEA Board of Governors for not fully cooperating with the nuclear watchdog.
In a statement, Blinken accused Iran of threatening “further nuclear provocations” and carrying out “further reductions in transparency”.
The top US diplomat called such moves “counterproductive and would further complicate our efforts to return to full implementation” of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). .
“The only result of such a path will be a deepening of the nuclear crisis and further economic and political isolation of Iran,” he said. “We continue to pressure Iran to choose diplomacy and de-escalation instead.”
Iran’s decision to remove the cameras could jeopardize the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which places verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program designed to prevent the country from get a nuclear weapon.
The IAEA chief said earlier on Thursday that Iran would “essentially” remove all cameras installed under the JCPOA, while warning that the move could deal a “fatal blow” to the pact.
“The idea is that anything beyond the overall safeguards agreement will be removed, that’s the principle, now we have to see how it works,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said. , to journalists at the quarterly meeting of the Board of Governors in Vienna.
Biden administration officials, however, did not go that far.
“It’s very unwelcome and it will make everything more difficult. But we wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the beginning of the end,” a senior administration official told CNN.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that Iran has yet to take the necessary steps to remove the 27 cameras used to monitor nuclear facilities. But that if Iran follows through, it will create complications to get back to the deal, they said.
Grossi told CNN it is “technically impossible” to have a nuclear deal with Iran if it restricts access to its facilities by having the cameras turned off.
“We have a number of ways to verify Iran’s activities in a number of areas related to the JCPOA. When Iran begins to restrict such access, at some point, if the JCPOA were to be revived… participants need to have a baseline, an amount needed to know what Iran has or (hasn’t), so we can check,” he said Thursday in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson. “If you don’t have that, it’s technically impossible to have a deal.”
While Blinken on Thursday blamed Iran for not yet having a deal to revive the deal, he continued to express openness to saving the nuclear deal.
“The United States remains committed to a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA. We stand ready to reach an agreement based on the agreements we negotiated with our European allies in Vienna for many months. Such an agreement has been available since March, but we can only conclude the negotiations and implement them if Iran drops its additional demands which are foreign to the JCPOA,” Binken said.
At Thursday’s press conference, Grossi said the IAEA would not be able to give JCPOA signatories specific details on Iran’s progress if the nuclear deal was not revived in the “next three to four weeks”.
“We are in a very tense situation with the negotiations on the revival of the JCPOA,” he said.
The cameras are distributed in nuclear-related facilities across Iran, including Natanz, Isfahan and Tehran, Grossi said.
“These cameras are placed in locations related to centrifuge parts assembly production,” Grossi added in reference to the removed surveillance equipment.
The move aims to prevent the IAEA from enforcing its “continuity of knowledge” – a principle used by the nuclear watchdog to prevent undetected access to nuclear material or undeclared operations.
“The window of opportunity is very small,” Grossi said.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Wednesday it disabled two IAEA cameras installed to monitor activities inside a nuclear facility, according to official IRNA news outlet.
The Iranian organization said that “more than 80%” of the IAEA’s cameras will continue to operate normally as they fall under the “safeguards agreement”, but that the two disabled cameras have been installed “beyond the time limit”. safeguards agreement,” IRNA reported.
On Wednesday, the United States said it was considering the issue of Iran’s compliance with the IAEA separately from negotiations over a return to the JCPOA.
“But there is, in our view, a deal on the table that would roll back JCPOA compliance without dealing with foreign issues. That deal is available to Iran. They should accept it. they don’t, it’s on them,” Sullivan told reporters, when asked if Iran disabling the two IAEA cameras would impact the resumption of talks on a return to nuclear power. nuclear deal.
Iran has suggested the decision to disable the cameras is reciprocal to a resolution submitted this week by the US, UK, France and Germany, blaming Tehran for not cooperating fully with the IAEA . The resolution was adopted on Wednesday by member states of the IAEA Board of Governors.
After the resolution was passed, the United States and European countries called on Iran to comply with the IAEA and to clarify and resolve the issues “without further delay”.
Iran, however, condemned the resolution, calling it “political action, incorrect and unconstructive”.
“The adoption of the resolution will only weaken the process of cooperation and interaction of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the IAEA,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The UK, France and Germany warned on Tuesday that Iran’s nuclear program is ‘now more advanced than at any time in the past’ and threatens ‘international security and risks undermining the global non-proliferation regime. “.
The United States relies on the IAEA to monitor Iran’s nuclear program, but the United States also collects intelligence on Iran’s capabilities.
The US State Department spokesperson told CNN: “If implemented, the escalation measures that Iran has threatened would compromise the IAEA’s ability to verify Iran’s statements related to at the JCPOA, using the cameras and other surveillance equipment installed for this purpose, regarding some of the nuclear activities they have undertaken since February 2021.”
“This would mean that Iran would have to provide all the information and transparency the IAEA deems necessary to enable it to verify Iran’s statements as part of any negotiated return to full implementation of the JCPOA. This would complicate obviously Iran’s stated political objective of a mutual return to full implementation of the agreement,” they added.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday praised the IAEA Board of Governors for passing the resolution, saying it was “high time” they “held Iran publicly.” responsible for its failure to provide credible and timely information”. cooperation with the IAEA’s investigation of undeclared nuclear material.
“Iran now has enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. This final step brings us back to a familiar question: when will the administration recognize that Iran’s nuclear advances are making a comeback at the 2015 JCPOA, which is not in the strategic interest of states? -United ? he said in a statement.
But for months, the Biden administration kept saying Iran is weeks away from having enough fissile material to create a nuclear bomb, and they stuck to that view on Thursday.
Henry Rome, who covers Middle East politics as deputy director of research at the Eurasia Group, told CNN it’s “very difficult to continue to say that a deal is really viable at this point. as Iran pursues these stern steps.”
“There are two dynamics here: one, to get back into the deal you need to have a baseline of what Iran has and where Iran has it and by removing these cameras it reduces your knowledge of exactly this question. This creates a lot of doubt. and doubt is not conducive to an already highly controversial proposal,” he said.
“And then the bigger point is that the harsh Iranian reaction says something about where they are considering a deal. Today is the day the music died on the idea that Iran was trying to preserve a space for a deal,” he said, adding that “there is still a way” but calling it “a blow to the idea that the Iranians are really determined to get the deal going again.”
CNN’s Ramin Mostaghim, Zahid Mahmood, Teele Rebane and Zeena Saifi contributed to this report.